The following was written by Pastor Bill King in “Bread for the Journey”, a email publication of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Blacksburg, VA.
“How many blessings do we still have left?” She had used the phrase several times, but for some reason I heard it—I mean really heard it—this time. I was at the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center, helping to deliver the baked good and tuition assistance Luther Memorial is giving to clients of the Center as a congregational Christmas Outreach ministry. A steady stream of parents had been coming through the doors, picking up their little ones, and leaving. So the director of the program was mentally taking inventory, “How many blessings do we still have left,” that is, “How many children have not yet been picked up.” Two observations about that choice of phrase:
First, in that moment I felt very good about supporting the work of this agency. It is great when folks do their work with competence and efficiency. It is even better when they begin that work with the assumption that the person in front of them is not simply a beggar at the feast but both a precious child of God, deserving of all the respect we can give them, and the means by which we may be enriched. Yes, little children are amazing; they melt your heart with a smile. But anyone who has spent much time in a day care or classroom will tell you that sometimes it takes an act of will to see anything in a little face except a cranky, demanding ball of mucus-dripping energy. I have to think those children at VICCC are better off when the folks caring for them start with the assumption that they are first and foremost a blessing. I suspect my most testy encounters would be much improved if I thought of the scowling face in front of me as a blessing.
That got me thinking about the great power of naming. If I call that piece of paper which is always on my desk a “to do” list, I think of those task very differently than if I call it my list of “ministry opportunities.” I can have “appointments” or I can choose to have “chances to serve.” I don’t think this is just a cutesy word game. Remembering that every person is a blessing, every day a fresh opportunity to make Christ known, fundamentally changes how we live in the world and our openness to give and receive joy in the simplest of encounters.