Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Faithfulness

     I felt blah recently. Didn't look forward to much. Searched for interest in tired Honolulu (see my prior Rock Fever essay). Found no relief in sight. 
     Until I looked outward.
     I'd resisted getting involved in our church's programs for the homeless mainly because they seemed so sterile—everything was done in-house with very select clientele consisting of mostly families with children. Braden and Penelope, along with a few other church youth, have been active with meal preparations—not a tall order because they serve about only twenty or so clients once every other month.
     When Braden was a Cub Scouter, I went overnight camping with him—great, memorable times, but as he got older, so did my back, and as he needed independence, I let him go on his own. Our church has always sought overnight hosts to oversee the housing facility during their guest families stays, so with a recent change of heart and of seasons in our lives, I decided it was time to sign up for one night if Braden could tag along with me, knowing it would again be something memorable and that the older and busier he gets, the less chances we'll have for such overnight sleepovers alone together.
     Since signing up, here's what's happened: 
     A high school classmate who lives down the street from us invited me as I walked to work one day (she was walking her dog) to a mini-reunion get-together with other Hilo High classmates (about a dozen or so) to play poker and craps, eat, and talk story. They meet bi-monthly at one of our classmate's condo. Deanne and I won't be able to attend this go-around because it's too near Christmas but perhaps another time. (As we've got a limited social calendar exclusive of kids, we find all such adults-only get-togethers engaging and special.  Plus, it'll be nice to see how everyone's doing as we didn't get to talk much at our last big class reunion.)
     Thanksgiving Eve I dreamt about a long time friend from a mostly singles church now defunct (though a few spin-off churches survive) in which he gave me the cold shoulder. That's all I could recall. So the next morning I called and left a message asking, “Is this still Bob Tobin's number? This is Tim. Remember me? Have plans for today? Wanna drop by? If not, I've got a bunch of stuff I'd like to drop off if you're interested. Please let me know...” 

     Ever since I first met Bob over twenty years ago, he's lived alone, surviving off his deceased father's social security checks, renting a room in an austere Section 8 Ohana house (a second house on a cramped lot, old and decrepit), and living frugally because he shuns an excess of worldly possessions (he gave away a portable stereo I once gave him and a nice Taylor guitar to a “needy” friend), and because he's got so little and feels incapable of holding a job due to mental health issues. And yet despite all these hardships he's one of the most generous, humble, funny, and all-around good-guys I've ever met—an angel come down from Heaven for me on occasion (though he'd never guess), and a steady influence though we've seldom interacted since I married. 
     I once spent an evening with him swimming the length of Ala Moana Beach Park in the dark and hanging out at his place afterward. I felt safe during the swim because although I'm only a mediocre swimmer, he's a good one and would have saved me if a shark bit me or I panicked or caught the cramps or some combination of the above, however improbable that might be. Before setting off, it was so dark that in order to swim straight and not end up beached on the reef outside or shallows inside, we had to select the lights of a tower in Waikiki that was situated down the middle to guide us. As I swam the tepid waters with nary a ripple under starry skies beside Bob on my right who took the more dangerous side I thought, “This is awesome!” No feelings of self-pity or remorse that I hadn't something better to do crept in like they had in the past. Swimming Ala Moana Beach Park in the dark was a first, and as I've always been a lover of firsts, it was ample—a fine way to spend my birthday.

     He soon called back and said he was going to his brother's and that we could drop by anytime before four if we wanted to. Our landlord had given us a huge Costco pumpkin pie, keeping a fourth for himself; we kept another fourth and gave the remainder to Bob, along with a pint of Penelope's home made fresh cranberry relish, fruit from our landlord's prolific tree, frozen brownies (leftovers made from a mix long ago) and a quart of ice cream given to us weeks earlier by a neighbor. I had Braden come along and Bob and I shared a joyful, laugh-filled reunion. He said he'd give the cake and ice cream to fellow residents in his compound that weren't going out. Though seeing him was sad in a way, reminding me of how old we're getting (he's developing a paunch, my hair's whitening), our time spent reconnecting (I told him about my dream, he laughed) became a high point of the day. 
     A few days later while walking home to cool down after a work-out run, I saw a neighbor weed-whacking her lawn. I'd seen her and her teen daughter before working their yard off and on and wondered about the absence of the man of the house who'd been there before. As I drew near, she turned her trimmer off to do some other chore and I doffed my cap and asked, “Do you want my son to come help? You don't have to pay him.”
     She said, “I'd love to have your son help. Of course I'll pay him. I've been looking for a yard boy. That would be such a big help.”
     “He's only fourteen. He doesn't know a thing. I'd feel bad if you pay him. Just give him some cold water is enough,” I said with a laugh, I was so pleased. She insisted on paying and asked to send him right over so he could help rake the cut grass. When I got home Braden was bathing, so I had him rinse off, get dressed, and put on sun block, then we walked over, me instructing, “If she tries to pay you, refuse. If she insists say, 'You can give me half.' If she still insists, you can take it all.” 
     When we got there, we exchanged introductions and she shared a little of what she's been trying to do to pretty-up the place. I left the two of them, returned home, and within ten minutes, Braden appeared, so Deanne and I asked what happened? He said, “She said she had to take her daughter somewhere and I can come back next Saturday at eleven to start.”  Saturday, he went over for a couple hours and got paid twenty dollars—the maximum reasonable sum I felt appropriate. I later checked the bricks he laid below-grade in a row to border a hedge and thought he'd done well enough for the time spent. And she invited him back so she must have deemed him worthwhile.
     Now in describing what happened above, I don't mean to suggest that there was a quid pro quo such that because I did something “good”, God rewarded me with these blessings. To the contrary, a couple of trials have also come our way in close succession. While Deanne drove us early one weekend morning to see the dentist, our car got side-swiped by an SUV. No one was hurt, praise God, and the damages were minor, but dealing with the insurance companies, repairing our busted mirror, and restoring Deanne's confidence have all been downers to varying degrees. The dentist's visit was to follow-up on a health issue concerning Braden that will require even further follow-up with a specialist. We'll take him first to see our pediatrician who's a super diagnostician with a reassuring demeanor and ready candor.
     No, God's faithfulness to me means He's always there for us, even in the midst of trials, blessing us with life, love, health, provision, and growth—physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and otherwise. Further, by blessing others, we receive an even greater share of life's blessings—peace of mind, perspective, caring, joy, and happiness. For it's no secret that it's better to give than receive.

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