This week, like several times before in this place, God has reminded me of the importance of taking time with the people who cross my path.
My dinner table, where I had finally become comfortable with my assorted companions, has changed. By the time I arrive, it is normally full. I miss my companions. Miss W. often sleeps and rarely talks; but she is given to a hearty laugh and speaks with clear understanding when she does speak. Miss P. repeats the same questions every day, several times each day, and is the most difficult to communicate with; but she loves company. Miss V. has become a close friend. Her abrasive manner and unpleasant voice drive many people away, and repeats her life story many times. Over the months. we have gotten past the surface to the pain we have shared--and the love God has for both of us.
A couple of days ago, Miss V. demanded a hug the next time we saw each other. So, yesterday, I hugged her. Miss P. asked why I didn't hug her. So I hugged her as well. Then Miss V. wanted another hug, because I had given Miss P. a better hug. . .shades of "mother, do you love me best?"
But as I've said, lately I've had to take a seat elsewhere. If I can, I choose to sit with people who enjoy a conversation. Miss P. (different than the one I mentioned above) lady sits alone at a back table. Sometimes, when I have tried to sit there, she has growled at me. Other times, we've had a pleasant conversation. So recently I told her I try to guess if she wants company or not before I join her.
She seemed so surprised--and very open to me joining her. "You can sit with me any time you want." Shades of Miss V., desperate for friendship while her armor shouts "don't come near me."
Today I sat with Miss D. While not suffering from Downs Syndrome, she has the same affect of someone who is lacking in intelligence but who says "I love you" to almost total strangers. But I will comment on her new dresses, or the stuffed animals and dolls she carries with her, or ask after her health. Today she told me a little of her sad story. (Several of us here come from very painful childhoods.) When I left, she said, "please don't tell this to anyone else. You're like my big sister." Tears glistening in her eyes.
The other day I tried to come down to my room after lunch. Two people stopped me on the way. I don't remember the question the first one had. The second was man, almost a century old, wanting to know where room 5 was. We found it, but I pointed out it wasn't his room. So I took him to his room--14--and he said, "four and one make five." I had to laugh at his logic.
My point is, the people here have become my family. I have made a difference in a small pond. If I leave--as seems more and more likely--I know myself. I have a tendency to hide away from people. I have always hoarded my time, and God prods me to give more generously of myself. I am gifted with people (I think) but I fight it.
Kind of like writing. Huh. Never thought of it that way.
So pray that I will remain and increase in openness to people in need of a friend.