I needed to shovel the snow for the third day in a row yesterday. Little and I came home and I went to work. Then I remembered that we have neighbors who live three houses down whose dad is out of town for the next two weeks. So its just the mom, who works full time, the grandma and the 2 year old daughter. It sure would be kind if I could help out and do this one small chore for them so them so they wouldn't have to do it and bear the cold and risk slipping on the ice. Easy right? Shovel your neighbors walk, 15 min, done.
A confession is that I don't usually think about helping my neighbors and shoveling their walks. Sad, but true. I just go about my business and do my own thing, get my work done and then move onto the next thing on my list . But this past Saturday, middle came out to help me shovel and I thought this was a good activity to help teach him how we can help people in all sorts of ways, even on our own block. (Sad that I often will only think of helping others when I know it will help me teach my kids about compassion. Man I have a long way to go in understanding a full change of heart.)
So we shoveled their walk two days ago. Now I am out there shoveling again, and I think to myself, no one is here to see me or learn from me. Why aren't I shoveling their walk again? OK, so I will go and shovel their walk. But in order to get to their home, I need to pass my immediate neighbors. My immediate neighbors who I have lived next door to for 10 years and I have never once shoveled their walk. They don't speak English, but we have lived peacefully, watching our kids playing together for years. The grandma has helped me weed my garden and we have shared plates of food with one another every time a baby is born in either home.
Would I really walk past their snowy sidewalk and not help out? They have 15 people who live in that house. Many capable people who could shovel. But just because they can shovel their own walk, doesn't mean I couldn't show kindness to even them. So I just kept shoveling.
The house after that is our neighbor who I struggle with. Their little boy who is hard for me to love, but God challenges daily in the summer months that kids act out for a reason. And he has his reasons. Two years ago while holding Little, we got ran down by the S.W.A.T. team as they busted down this neighbor's door looking for a stolen weapon. Then we watched the little boy who watched his dad and his uncles hurl curse words and slander while they cleaned up glass from the broken door and window. Things are hard at that house. Are they not worthy of kindness? Would a kind act show this family compassion and a little bit of joy? So I just kept shoveling.
Now the house between the family I just told you about, and the mother with her husband gone has been abandoned since the tornado. It sits, neglected, all doors and windows boarded up. We thought the city might own it, but a few weeks ago a couple guys came and cleaned the house out. Now it sits with a For Sale sign on the lawn. I'm not gonna lie. We all loved when this family left. They were really hard to love. There were all sorts of shady things happening in that house. Cops were a regular there, and a few years back they received a lot of attention of shooting and killing their dog in the basement. But mostly, it really bothered me the way the oldest son talked to his little brother. The way he would interact with him. You knew bad stuff was happening there. ANYWAY, it is one abandon house that sits between all my shoveled walk, and the house I am trying to get to. So I shoveled. I don't know if anyone was going to come and shovel. I doubt it. And I thought of all the people who would walk the sidewalk getting to the bus or to work, and I thought about the mailman. So I shoveled it for them. Then I shoveled our friends walk.
As I was shoveling, I thought about all the things I had just written about.
The family who is capable and has lots of people to shovel.
The family, who for honesty sake, kind of scare me.
The empty home with no family, but so many past mistakes.
The family in need.
I was placing judgments on who was worth my time and kindness. Who REALLY needs help? Those are the people we help right?
Being in the tornado almost two years ago really has changed me. Like never before, was God's call for us to simply live out our lives, loving the people around us mean as much to me as it did after that experience. No kindness goes unnoticed, because in every act of kindness, there is love, and where there is love, God is present.
Well, after I was done shoveling, I noticed that all I did was reveal all the Ice underneath the snow. And my first thought was, "Grap! For real?!" So I went into our home and got our bag of salt, selfishly thinking to myself, "Now I have to go and buy more salt because I am going to use it all up and I wasn't planning on spending money on this, and Paul is just going to love that I am salting the walk of crack house. He's gonna love me for this." But, come on, really, it would be a terrible thing for me to shovel, only to reveal ice and then let someone slip. I love the way God just keeps pushing me further. "Just give a little bit more Dani. Give till you can feel the pain of letting go of your stuff, your money, your time for someone else. I want you to feel giving, not just be a convenient giver, because that is really no servant heart at all."
So I salted everyone's walk. I knew it was right. I knew God was teaching me in this moment and shaping my heart to look a little more like his, and I am thankful for that, really. So I didn't say anything to my neighbors or to my kids. This was just about serving and loving the people around me. Truthfully, I'm not sure they would know we are Christians by the way we live. I mean, we go to church, and we talk about kindness here and they know we are believers, but that's only because they've asked. I am ashamed by how little I have done to serve the people right here on my street. This. This is why God is shaping my heart. To make me less selfish, and I am thankful for that.
This morning I had a wonderful devotion/prayer time before the kids got up. I went to the kitchen and started my routine. Then big woke up and when we looked out the window he saw it had snowed again. AGAIN! Four days in a row. He said, "mom, I think we should serve our friend by shoveling her walk again. I mean you could do it." And that is when I rolled my eyes.
SERIOUSLY GOD?!!! FOUR DAYS IN A ROW YOU WANT ME TO SHOVEL HALF A CITY BLOCK AND SALT IT?
Yes all the shouty capitals were in my head. And then a quiet understanding came to me.
When are we done serving?
When ever is it enough to stop giving?
Where is the line for not loving your neighbor?
So my heart got worked on a little bit more today. My understanding of faith, love, serving, obedience and God got a little bit richer today as yes, I did shovel everyone's walk again today.
And maybe, just maybe, I'm a little less selfish today, and little bit more focused on God.
(But then secretly I tell myself, you have to really get it today, otherwise it will snow again tomorrow Daniel-son. I think God might just be Mr. Miyagi.)
So yes, this girl still has a lot to learn.