It has been close to ten years now that I've been teaching bible studies at our local retirement home. I've often written of the precious people God has placed in our study, many of them in their 80s and 90s, and how God has continued to show us that this little ministry matters to Him.
This past week two of our very dear friends in our study - one age 74 and one age 81 - went to be with the Lord. It is so hard to lose those you've grown so close to, and especially those you have journeyed with in the pages of the Word of God!
We held a little memorial service for one of them yesterday so that other residents could come. I was stunned to hear these old voices raised in such a chorus of harmonies as together we sang "Blessed Assurance" and "Because He Lives" and "Amazing Grace"! But the best part was when I asked if they wanted to share about their memories with Jim (the deceased). It was then that I remembered the greatest gift I could give. Not playing the piano, or singing, or preaching or organizing or leading the prayers. No...the greatest gift is listening. I was so deeply blessed listening to them share their stories about their friend, all the memories they had of him, and all the ways he had graced and blessed their different lives. They seemed so very happy to have a place where they could tell the stories and someone would listen.
I know this was the one gift that meant the most to them because so many of them stayed afterward to tell me so, and people lingered, as if not wanting to leave this place where memories mattered and stories lived on.
I think it's something we need to be reminded of - and so I'm reaching out to each of you, at the unction of the Holy Spirit - to tell you that the very small times you have spent with others, just listening, has truly mattered to God. From pastors and shepherds to neighbors and every-day folks, you may feel weary and battered from all the times you've tried to be there for people, but it seemed as if you accomplished nothing, or you felt you didn't have the resources or the right words to help. Know that you didn't need resources or right words. Know that your gift was simply being there and caring and listening. It made a difference - far greater than you know in this life.