I have two very vivid “feeling” memories from childhood. Feeling memories are things tied sooo closely to what your heart needs to hear; They are not a memory of an event or an instance or even a thing. They are a memory of a feeling, and I have two that conflicted and battled for a place …. one born from longing, the other born from fear. I remember them both well, and if I’m honest, in ways even today, they war on. #ButGod
To be seen
To not be seen.
Let me explain.
All I longed for and was desperate for, was to be loved and wanted; to feel important and significant.
I longed for it; yearned for someone to be with me, see me, show me love; but my home was anything but this type of atmosphere… so, out of fear from the bad things that I knew could happen, I tried not to be seen.
It was conflicting . These were “my people”- the ones who should make me feel safe, loved, and wanted… but instead I feared them and what they did to me.
I’d come home from school and go straight to my room, trying to escape before I was even noticed. If I was out of sight, I was out of mind, and if I was out of mind, bad things couldn’t happen to me. So on one hand, I longed for what I hoped I’d receive, but on the other, I feared what might actually happen, so I tried to become invisible.
It was tormenting. And I was just a child. I didn’t understand or have any real frame of reference to expect things to be different. This is what I knew. I just also somehow knew there was supposed to be “more.”
From the late 60’s to the early 70s, this fear was what I knew. Loneliness was what I knew. Neglect was what I knew. Abuse was what I knew. But even in my child’s mind, I KNEW there must be more… I was sure of it.
“Kevin Hatfield” was proof. He was my next-door neighbor and when his mom got wind of me being home alone every night, she started sending Kevin over to ask me to come play. It was amazing. I loved walking in their house. I can remember so much about it…the dark wood floor in the entry; to the right the golden staircase banister that went up to the second floor; and to the left, a large living room with a fireplace and a big framed picture over it; a round, red braided rug on the floor and cozy pillows on a well-worn brown couch. I remember the bright, cheery kitchen in the back of the house, with wheat stalks on the wall paper, and a huge window that looked over a pretty wooded area and had a sweet dog that loves to play catch. I remember Kevin’s mom always in there getting dinner ready for her family.
It’s crazy my vivid memory of this home, because if you ask me about my own, there is much I’ve blocked out. There is much I can’t remember. I can tell you the lay out, but nothing personal within. I can tell you the door to the stairway was dark panel and the basement itself always had a smell of something I could only then only describe as damp wood, skunks and flowers that had somehow rotted and developed their own kind of body odor. I now know, that smell was a damp dark basement mingling with pot and patchouli and various whiskeys. And I remember the door because fear struck me every time I had to use it.
I can tell you where the Christmas tree always stood because I actually met Santa at that tree one year. Late one Christmas eve I heard this horn , like that of an ahooga horn on an old time car. I ran to the window to look at the driveway, and sitting there was this old fashioned car, complete with a large red bag in the rumble seat and a large “red” man with a huge white beard sitting in the front. He waved and I ran to the front door and threw it open! Yes. It was in the dead of a Michigan winter and it was freezing, but folks, I was home alone on Christmas eve and SANTA just arrived!!!! He came in and brought MEEE cookies, and then proceeded to place all kinds of gifts under the tree for just MEEEE ! I got hugged by the man in the red suit and I remember him crying…. And for a split second… I felt seen. And very very loved.
I still don’t’ know who that man was. My Mom was in the hospital and who knows where dear ol’ step dad and the boys were, but this man… He somehow knew I was alone and he told me he had to drive his car this Christmas and not bring his reindeer because reindeer could only fly if it was snowing. It wasn’t snowing, so in my child’s mind it all made sense and I believed him. He told me to wait for morning and then open all my gifts. I did… and while I’m sure someone was there to have Christmas with me, I can’t remember them, I only remember getting the best gift ever: My Easy Bake oven. I didn’t even know it was a toy. I just know it is what I used to make dinners for myself. A lot of bologna went through that oven! Lol… And sometimes Graham crackers. Sometimes white bread and mayo sandwiches…. Whatever I could find to feed myself. This I know, Santa… real life Santa himself…saw me. Knew me. Knew what I needed and gave it to me. And I felt loved.
Back to Kevin’s house. I can even remember the worn path in the grass of my back yard where I walked to his house, crossed the dead end street, and joined the sidewalk that led up to the “Hatfield’s” porch. I remember a black lantern post at the edge of the sidewalk and I knew if that lantern was coming on, I needed to be getting home to grab what I could find in the kitchen and get to my own room before anyone who lived at my house came home. Remember, I needed to be unseen.
Here’s where I’m going with all this.
There is ministry in presence.
Santa ministered to me.
Kevin’s mom ministered to me.
Both ministered to me, just by making me feel seen and by entering into my aloneness and make me matter. Oh my goodness… those two people alone, in fleeting moments, were what I drew hope from, strength from, good from, in many times during those young years.
Santa’s presence made a difference in less than an hour. He knew just a moment in my life, mattered. He saw a once in a lifetime difference making opportunity, and he took it. I’m sure it was inconvenient. I mean, the man went to sommmme lengths to pull off this “moment.” But because he did, for a good few years, I got to eat “hot” meals. I got to remember “that one time” Santa came just for me. I got to recall feeling seen and loved and like I mattered . I mean, let’s be real, Santa can’t stop and bring cookies and show little girls how to use an easy bake oven at every stop! Right? That meant I was special! And I hung on to that with my life.
Kevin’s mom’s presence made a difference every couple of days. Just by seeing a little girl with a need, and inviting her in to her own everyday she changed the fear of aloneness in my week. She didn’t have to talk to me or feed me or do anything for me… she just let me be with her… and that was enough.
She entered in; “Santa” entered in; and I’m telling you friends, it gave me strength for all the in-between times. It gave me hope for all the other “unseen” times. It instilled in me a spark of hope and it created a space in my heart for down the road when “faith” would make an appearance.
Read that again. “It created a space in my heart for down the road when ‘faith’ would make an appearance.”
The ministry of presence.
Just “being there”… sometimes with a gift, a conversation, an act of kindness, or even, moments of silence… your presence into someone’s hard space, is more of a gift than you’ll ever know.
The ministry of presence.
It’s seed planting.
I didn’t know faith. I didn’t know God. I didn’t even have a good example of people in my life that I wanted to grow up to be like someday. I only knew what I knew…a desperate longing and a paralyzing fear: to be seen and unseen. It was torment.
Enter, two humans who were kind. Who came into my space and made a place, if even for a moment.
Who invited me to their table.
Who made room to have room for me.
Who saw a need and filled it.
Who did a little thing that changed my whole world.
Who tucked into a cranny of my heart, the possibility of hope and a seed that would nestle down into the depths of me to be remembered when the time came, that I first heard about a God who loved me.
The Ministry of Presence. “We will never be able to effectively tell them a God story, if we are not leaning with compassion into their human story.” (~Homesteader Kay)
It’s a lesson well learned.
When we take time to hear, to listen, to dwell, to reach out, to minister, to feed, to have compassion, to understand, to meet a need, to sit with in silence, to hold a hand, deliver a meal, send a handwritten letter, call with a real life voice… to seeeeeee with unbridled compassion the human story people are living, we open doors to plant seeds for a God story so much bigger than we ever dreamed!
I WISH I knew “SANTA” now. I WISH I knew Kevin’s mom’s name. I wish I could find these two “presence Minsters” and tell them:
“LOOK!” LOOK where lil Kay landed in life! LOOK at her happy! LOOK at her SEEN. LOOK at her loved. LOOK at her in this GOD STORY she never imagined possible!
A ministry of presence.
Made a way.
Friends. Don’t discount the value in seeing humankind, and then
being “Human Kind”.
It may promote you to “Minister of Presence.”
It may mean more than you ever dreamed to the one longing and fearing in the same breath.
Above all, it may just be the beginning of someone’s God story.
Difference making doesn’t have to be extravagant… it just has to be intentional and from a heart of love.
The ministry of presence. A small seed with a mighty purpose.