Every Friday morning I lead a little support group/Bible study/worship service/open confessional/gripe session/gossip fest at a local assisted living center.
When the friendly neighborhood “workplace chaplain” shows up, she is greeted usually by the same women. There are the atheist depressive and the New York Jew, both of whom hate each other. (Last time one of them said to me under her breath that she didn’t know if she could stay if the other were there. She stayed…for a few minutes.)
And then there is usually at least one polite, Baptist African American woman, sometimes two, one of whom has early onset dementia. Which means that I can count on her to say the same thing over and over again in case we’ve forgotten: usually it’s some refrain of what a teenager would say when she has just gotten her driver’s license, about how she wishes she could have the car so she could get around more; or, that the world would be better if we all just learned to love each other better. (The latter reminder is one I guess we could all use.)
The funny thing is, if I show up only a few minutes late, the atheist depressive is asking the center’s activities director where I am. She is the most loyal, punctual attendee- even if occasionally she’ll stomp off rather dramatically in tears, because she can’t handle being reminded of her sad life.
When the New York Jew launches into one of her soliloquies about “the guy upsteehs” (translation, “the guy upstairs”) is when the atheist depressive decides to tune out. She fixes her gaze on some far-off place in the opposite direction of where the New York Jew is speaking, and then occasionally will glance at me, as if to see whether her protest is gathering attention- at which point I do the best I can to look gently disapproving. Usually, and thankfully, the New York Jew is oblivious, or at least pretends to be.
Usually, too, I can tell what mood my friends are in by whether they comment on my outfit. If I’m looking “stunning,” I can count on a more upbeat gathering. If I’m just “attractive,” it means breakfast was okay, but there may be some indigestion. If there’s no comment, I need to brace myself for a potentially difficult set of interactions. (The narcissist in me admittedly prefers the “stunning” days.)
But there is something heartwarming about knowing that at least for these three or four women, Friday mornings at 10am is now sacred, because somehow in some way God shows up for them there. In the T.V. room of an assisted living center. In the midst of several very different lives all thrown together in a seemingly haphazard mix.
Last Friday I asked folks to share where they had experienced God’s love in the preceding week- or, if they did not believe in God, where they had experienced love at all. The atheist depressive spoke up: “In your being with us here this morning.”
Together, the three or four of us make a small microcosm of people at the intersection between God and life- messy, colorful, comedic and sad all at the same time. It’s sitcom material, really. In fact, a television screen writer friend of mine has said she sees a future in it; so, I’m taking notes for that next show or next book, and you get to be my guinea pigs.
Happy Friday, friends!