I spent some time last Tuesday in a sanctuary, met several ministers, and witnessed acts of amazing compassion and love. As a result, I thanked God. But it wasn't in a church when it happened.
I was in a public school.
Larry and JoAnn Smith and I were visiting Sandy Dye's class for the profoundly disabled to get some ideas on how we as a Christian Community can help Sandy and the rest of the staff as they care for the children. We were treated to some real entertainment as the kids had "circle time" where they react to music. Sandy took the time to explain the background of each child, and some history of where they were when they came, where they are now, and where the staff hopes they can progress to.
Watching Sandy as she talked about where a 10 year old was 6 years ago when she first met him, and where he is now, I could see her relive countless days of repetition. Hearing her talk when she described the circumstances during the first three years of his life that contributed to his problems, there wasn't a flash of hate at who did it, just an underlying sadness that accompanied her words. Then as the child was placed in his walker and made his way out into the larger room, her eyes gleamed with pride when she said "he's had that for three days now, and look how well he's doing!"
To be placed in Sandy's care, a child has to be "the least of these", with no real chance of becoming a productive adult. That does not mean however, that they live sad and meaningless lives. The smiles on their faces were real. And the joy of those who cared for them was too.
There's a chance that one of the kids on the other end of the school might one day grow up to be president of the US, or the inventor of a vaccine for cancer, or one could be the first person to set foot on Mars. Valparaiso Elementary is an amazing school with caring professionals who do a great job teaching kids how to learn and how to live as citizens. With the foundation the kids get, they could go to the heights of our society's achievements.
None of Sandy's kids will, but that's beyond her control. What she can control is what they receive from her, and that will always be love. Not a passive love by any means - she wants to see them progress, to be all they can be, and she can be tough if she needs to be - but she draws from a deep well of compassion and care.
The laughter of the children at play was infectious and their smiles were magical. For a few minutes we found ourselves clapping hands, stomping feet, and singing silly songs. Everyone needs a circle of joy like that.
Someone who would have felt right at home helping in Sandy's classroom once said that we should not ask to do great things for God, but we should ask Him to give us the ability to do small things with great love.
Sandy does that.
We can too. And I hope that New Hope's hearts can grow larger as we serve Sandy's kids.
Small victories, yes. But big impact.
We love, because He first loved us.