Last Sunday evening in October, the youth of St. Stephen went to a favorite mission site – Casa House, a low-income, Catholic Charities multi-ethnic senior citizens apartment complex. Lynn Yeoman, Social Service Coordinator, and St. Stephen church member, announced our arrival so that 15 – 20 seniors came out of their apartments to play games, and get their fingernails painted led by the Youth of St. Stephen.
Typically, the seniors love Bingo and have the need, like every child, to win a prize or pout. Prizes purchased and donated were holiday themed gadgets and decorations, books, pencils, and bags of candy. John Bollman called the Bingo with loud measured pace and we made sure that everyone earned a prize twice over. The youth were exuberant and so attentive to our senior partners in Bingo, you would have been proud.
Toward the end of the night, a tiny African American woman chastised me for bringing candy to her, a diabetic. I apologized profusely and she softened and said, “Don’t worry. You remember next time!”
As we returned to the Church Van, I saw three of the Bingo players in wheelchairs out in the parking lot smoking. They thanked us again for coming as I asked them what prizes they got and they rattled off what they received with graciousness. Then one very perceptive man said, “Honey, you spent too much money! Some of those prizes cost $3. Go to the dollar store next time. Get paper towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo. Make it simple!” Another lady chimed in, “We need the basics like Spic and Span and things we cannot buy with food stamps.”
Ka-pow! There it was like neon sign. Simple, simple, simple, simplify. Paper towels, toilet paper, soap and shampoo. Health issues and age had simplified their lives to shed need for seasonal trinkets and useless frivolity. Give them what they need, not what I think they want.
During November and December, I see the need to heed the advice of my wheelchair bound friend. Simple, simple, simple, simplify. Between work, events at church, doctors appointments, Thanksgiving and Christmas, my schedule is horrendous. Is yours too? How can we all simplify our lives?
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24
As I observe my own schedule and the schedule of the many parents in our culture, I recognize that most of us are serving an inflexible schedule of events for kids’ sports, music and dance, school functions and homework. What seems to be missing is family time, time to worship together, time to relax together.
My own adult children are addicted to serving electronics and social media of our national culture. Can they be unplugged? Can they let go of that phone, the i-pad, the constant need to reply to everything coming down an electronic pipeline? How can they simplify and let go of the need to constantly be communicating? Can they be alone anymore?
Inflexible schedules and social media addiction are some of the banes of society. Another is money. Talk about inflexible – with one daughter’s wedding and one grandchild’s birth to pay for, our finances have greatly tightened this year. This may be the year for practical Christmas gifts like toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo and soap from the dollar stores!
What are the reasons that we comply with the culture of America and the messages of more, of excess, of extended finances, of overextending our schedules, of addiction to media or inappropriate activities? Does this behavior make us happier, healthier, smarter, better able to be adults, conform?
Can we contract together? Let’s carve out some time for Family, for God, for personal quiet time. Make family important. Be with your children, your family. Eat together at the house. Stay out of your car for a day. Create memories that are real.
Come to church. St. Stephen Presbyterian Church can be a place to pray and communicate with your God; it can be a place where mission meets need; it can be a place where relationships are non-electronic and real.
We need the basics. We need each other. We need to remember God and family and friends. All the rest is complicated. Simplify.