On February 16th, Sharon shared this reflection during worship as part of a series in which members and friends were asked, “How does your faith impact your daily life?”
When Keith asked me to talk about how my faith had impacted my everyday life, I immediately thought of an experiment I had done a few years ago, which I nicknamed, “Just Say Yes.”
I was and am involved in a variety of different groups, and had reached that point where people in those groups were always asking me to volunteer for different tasks. Some of you are very familiar with this issue! And so when I was asked, I would go through the usual thought process: “Is this something I feel comfortable doing? Is this something I can do well enough that I’d be good at it? Is it going to fit into my schedule easily?” Sometimes I’d say yes, sometimes I’d say no, but there was always a lot of internal debate. But then I felt my faith pushing me to take all those thoughts out of the picture, and just trust that if I were needed enough to be asked, then I should Just Say Yes, and it was what I was meant to be doing.
Now, I wasn’t totally crazy about this; I felt OK saying no to things that were logistically impossible, and I didn’t feel like I had to make a life-long commitment to this approach. But I did feel that my faith was pushing me to do it for a couple years. So how did it play out? I’ll give you just 2 of the many possible examples.
One came up when I was a deacon, and we were discussing who could bring communion to Mary Crocker, over at Acton Life Care. I had a mental laundry list of reasons why I didn’t want to do this: I hadn’t visited a nursing home in 30 years and didn’t know how they worked. I’d only met Mary once, and didn’t think she’d remember me. And although Hannah had written a great script for home-based communion, I still felt awkward about the parts that involved praying out loud, and exactly how to handle everything. But I said Yes. And I bet you can guess how it turned out.
First, visiting a nursing home as an adult is much less scary than as a child visiting a dying grandparent. And if you tell a staffer that you’re from a church bringing communion to a resident, they’re more than happy to help you find the right room and let you wheel the person down to lunch whenever you’re done. Mary wasn’t too clear on who I was, but her face lit up when she realized someone from West Concord was there to bring her communion. And the look of utter peace on her face, as she received communion, reminded me that she had loved and felt blessed by this sacrament for nearly a century, and whatever words I might say, she was also hearing a century’s worth of other blessings right along with it.
So here’s a second example, far more secular. For 8 years now, Mark and I have been doing set up at Open Table. Typically we’d do it one Monday each month, so it wasn’t a big time commitment, although it was always a bit of a hassle for me to leave work early. But then some of the other volunteers left, and I was asked if we could do it twice a month. So I said Yes. And wouldn’t you know it, by volunteering just slightly more often, we finally managed to get the routine down pat. I didn’t need to bring a checklist each time, and Mark didn’t need to be shown how to do each step.
After a few months, Mark’s best friend Ravi noticed that Mark wasn’t as available afterschool on Mondays. Ravi’s mom found out why, and mentioned that she’d been looking for a way that she and Ravi could volunteer together. And to make a long story short, for the last few years, they’ve been volunteering two Mondays each month, I volunteer once unless I’m also covering for someone else, and Mark winds up there 2 or 3 Mondays each month since he helps Ravi’s shifts almost as much as he’s there with me.
Life changes, and other commitments and energy levels change. I’ve since taken a step back from some things I used to do. But I’m very glad that my faith pushed me to approach volunteering in a new way, and taught me to let go of my perfectionist and somewhat neurotic approach, and Just Say Yes.