Last week when I was returning from Los Fresnos, I texted my friend Sarah asking if I could come visit and volunteer at the non-profit she works at called the ROC. I honestly still do not know what the ROC stands for, but I found myself standing in a gem within a rock encrusted suburbia.
Now my experience of whenever you allow yourself to walk into a place where you know virtually no one to volunteer, you are bound to become completely vulnerable and at the mercy of the experience. You can choose to be the silent vulture who talks to no one or allow the people there to sweep you off your feet. I have a tendency to choose the first, as my nature is an introvert. Fortunately, as soon as I was out of the car, I was recruited to carry in a poster.
Inside the ROC, I found something familiar, something new, something unique, and something that resembled a home for an extremely large extended family. The place was abuzz with pre-k kids playing, high schoolers stooping and lurking in the corners, to adults running around in an attempt to organize what refused to be organized, and senior citizens simply sitting and enjoying the sight. You see, this is a building where 27 different ministries meet and use the building (maybe churches could learn a thing or two from this in terms of building use?).
I cannot help but be filled with gratitude for those who run and work at the building, like Sarah, because oh what they have been able to accomplish there. They had managed to create an atmosphere of true hospitality that created a clear presence of joy that radiated through the people there. As a sat up stairs at one point, I couldn't help but imagine the holy spirit flying around the heads of the people there in its wondrous wisps and flames, carefully entering different people's hearts in different moments, moving too and from each person, slowly connecting and uniting them as creation was meant to be. Together.
Watching all of this happen filled me up with so much joy, that I couldn't help but return a second day to see it all happen again. It's not often in our busy lives that we get to take the time to stop, watch, listen, and experience moments like this. I am reminded through this, that God works so many wonders at the same time in so many places, places that we cannot see or do not know about. But they are happening! They are alive and well!
And for this I am beyond grateful. I can hardly begin to comprehend such joy and beauty in one moment.
Interestingly, I just finished a book by Henri Nouwen that speaks of joy and gratitude as choices in our life and as disciplines.
Gratitude, however, goes beyond the 'mine' and 'thine' and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift."
"Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice"
"This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded by lies."
"Every moment of each day I have the chance to choose between cynicism and joy"
I pray and hope that we can find the courage to step out of the darkness of cynicism and resentment. So often we can allow ourselves to fall into that silent figure in the background because we are afraid to become vulnerable enough to experience the joys of the present.