Yesterday I had the opportunity to play Santa Claus. It was not only extremely enjoyable and enriching but educational. Our, elected, church government, called the Session, in the First Presbyterian Church, has the tradition of collecting donations for our staff and then giving them a Christmas gift at the conclusion of the year. One of our staff told me that she had not received a gift, recently, and that this year’s gift meant so much to her! She asked me if she could give me a hug…and I replied that she certainly could. Her joy at being included and not forgotten…was palpable and it made my day!
How many of us feel forgotten? Whether it is in the workplace where our opinion is never sought, or in our community, where we feel invisible…or in the church….Where we seem to be unseen?
Our country applauds financial success and the perks that it brings. We see the fine home or the stellar resume…or the smooth and dulcet tones that the leaders of the community or the church…communicate with. We know our friends….Our social circle and our colleagues. But, do we see those who do not fit the paradigm?
I have the distinct life-story of experiencing both the abased and abound components of a 62 year old life experience. I lived poverty! I understood, clearly, what it was for the CIPS gas worker to knock on my front door and tell me that he had been instructed to shut my gas off, for the heating in my home, if I could not pay him…immediately!
I know what it is like to be hungry. I do not mean enjoying a McDonalds cheeseburger at lunch and awaiting a steak at dinner. I am talking about nothing to eat other than potatoes and Cremora, at work, which I consumed by the spoon full!
I understand what it was like to walk…while all of my friends were driving their new automobiles. I know how it felt to live on one sandwich a day…from a vendor at the church that I was helping to build. I know what it was like to be the goat at the garden party!
God blessed me and helped me…and I became a success at SIUC. I began as a Building Service Worker I and was promoted to the Superintendent of Building Services. I was able to obtain an upper middle class lifestyle and the blessings that are associated with the moniker.
I did not forget where I came from… nor where I am going. I am headed to Jerusalem…along with the broken and the beaten and the besmirched!
I recall walking in Elkville, Illinois while, it seemed, everyone passed me by. I, vividly, remember my teenage friends telling me about enjoying steak and ribs and pork chops…while I had potatoes to eat! I know what it is like to believe the no one sees me!
Also, I know what it is like to be called Mr. Brooks. I understand how it feels for my opinion to not only matter but be the construct for my department’s operational policy!
I have had university chancellors and presidents as my personal friends. The encouragement and mentoring of the university community was an immeasurable gift!
When I see the poor…I remember my mother not having enough money to purchase milk…and saving my pennies until I had a dime to walk to the local restaurant and buy a glass.
When I see the hungry…I remember not having the 20 cents a day for the grade schools hot lunch…and being the only student in the first grade to bring my lunch in a brown bag.
I have been honored and humbled to have the title of elder or trustee in almost every church that I have been a member of. I think titles have an insidious affect of separating work and faith communities. When someone asks me what I did at the university…I respond that I worked in housekeeping.
‘I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:12 KJV