“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them...”
Every week, students from the Institute for G.O.D. serve within their neighborhood and the Nashville community at large. One of their weekly service projects is directed toward widows and elderly. With the Institute back in session, new students joined older classmates to visit a nearby low-income high-rise complex for senior citizens. Amanda Byrd, a 4th year student, organized and facilitated the service project and commented on how well the students worked together, especially when each person did that which came naturally. The Bible teaches us that we have gifts according to the grace given us and we should, therefore, use those gifts in service to one another.
“Tabitha has experience working with the elderly and it is obvious. She picked up on several things that needed to be done and, without being told, she quickly went about cleaning, organizing, and decluttering spaces,” Amanda recounted. Careful not to embarrass the resident, Tabitha removed all the spoiled food from the refrigerator and disposed of it without drawing attention to what she was doing. The work she did was thorough, thoughtful, and dignifying to the recently widowed gentleman they were serving.
Amelia is a new student and her enthusiasm in working with the elderly is contagious. She was challenged by a resident who, although he asked for the students to come to his apartment, was extremely reserved and answered all questions with one or two words. Amelia had two resolves: “First, I’m going to do all the cleaning needed and do it well. Secondly, I’m going to have a conversation with Mr. Harold -- one in which we both talk.”
“Did that happen?” I asked. “Not this time, but I will be visiting him many more times and eventually I believe he will be comfortable enough to talk.” Amelia is someone who is committed to developing relationships through service.
Amanda told me about another student who has been serving at this same high-rise for several years now. “Georgie doesn’t say much. She smiles. She cleans. She listens. But everyone makes the same comment about her, ‘She is the sweetest thing ever!’” If Georgie isn’t there one week, residents ask when she is coming back. Georgie has a presence that makes those around her feel valued and cared for. “I don’t know how she does it but God has certainly gifted her with a sweet spirit,” said Amanda.
And then there is Lauren. Country girl Lauren from Arkansas. She knows no stranger and even though she is barely out of the teen years, she has the gift of engaging older people in conversation. Amanda watched her look around the room to find something she can talk about with residents. “I noticed a souvenir from a local Western show so I talked about that,” said Lauren. “The man was instantly animated,” Amanda said, “and in a short time, Lauren had him talking as if they had been old friends.”
Young college students visit numerous elderly residents and each serve according to their gifts. This is what makes our Widow and Elderly Program successful. It is not solely that we cook, clean, organize, do yard work, run errands and visit. It is successful because people do what God has uniquely prepared them to do.
We each have been given gifts by God to serve our neighbor. When we present these gifts to the Lord, he directs us to use them for our neighbors in need, in ways that can even surprise us. Did Lauren anticipate that her knowledge of Western shows would come into play that day? Of course not, but she brought herself, with her unique gifts and personality, to her service. May we each recognize the opportunity we have to bring ourselves, and the unique person God has made us to be, into the service of our neighbor.