"… and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them." Luke 4:40
Have you unplugged from Christmas? What's that mean to you? What stories do you tell at Christmas that you don't tell at the beginning of February? I'm not suggesting that you should be telling stories about shepherds and annunciations and leading stars. I'm just wondering if you have been able to keep the best impulses of Christmas alive in your life thus far into the new year.
One of those Christmastime impulses led a bunch of us to go caroling in December. In case you haven't heard that story, here's one part of it.
Terri Taylor is attending Andover Newton Theological School and one of her classmates is now a chaplain in Wrentham at the Wrentham Developmental Center, a community for adults with developmental disabilities. Chaplain Liz Brimm invited us to come caroling. We went in three or four carloads! The building we visited had two apartments on each of four floors. Each apartment was home to three to five adults and each apartment had three or four professional caregivers. Few of the residents speak or move easily. The apartments were warm and decorated for the season.
We were a little shy and a lot curious. I was certainly curious. The "cottages" of which we were visiting one are the remnants of the state school at Wrentham where people with certain disabilities were housed, put away. That history is not ancient or happy. So I, at least, felt the weight of that history and felt some tension about our visit.
We were greeted and ushered into the first apartment where our first sight was a woman in a wheelchair with wide eyes and strong, gesticulating arms. As we shuffled into the apartment, we kind of hung together – mostly because we were looking for where to stand to sing our carols – except for Susan Spaulding. Susan walked right over to the (somewhat startling looking) woman in the wheel chair and took her hand and said, "Hello, dear, hello!"
I'd like to tell you that the woman calmed right down or that all the people we saw that afternoon were healed, amused, or even knew we were there. Well, no one began to walk suddenly or speak in full sentences and many of the residents seemed unaware of us. But we sang a ton of songs in the cottage that afternoon and there were some folks joining in and smiling that we were there. The staff seemed glad and that helped us grow bolder as we went apartment to apartment. Some of us grew as bold as Susan and reached out a hand to hold a hand or touch a shoulder.
I don't mean to sentimentalize our caroling visit. We sang some carols! The apartments were warm and bright! We were glad to go and we stuck with it through the entire building! Clearly the residents are being cared for competently and kindly. Chaplain Liz said that, "There's nothing but love in this building." We should go again!
I just wanted us all to remember that Jesus laid hands on people to heal them and just to make his presence tangible. I also invite us to find gifts in each other and honor those gifts. There are some of us who are not likely to use a keyboard to update a spreadsheet. There are some of us who may be unlikely to sing a solo. But each of us has moments when our gift of song, of conversation, of building repair, of crafting, of foam collecting, of garlic planting, or of approaching an intimidating/frightened stranger and reaching out to reassure and say, "Hello, dear, hello," makes our strength and gift clear. So look for the gift in yourself, look for the gift in the people around you, and give thanks and praise to the one who gave us the gift and is giving still.