Bruce's Blog


In Blessing we are Blessed

December 17th, 2015

Guest Blog: 

UCOM Asset Based Community Deveopment Manager
BettyBeth Johns

As I worked through their grocery order in the food pantry, Mrs. would say things like, “put that cake back but don’t tell my husband. He loves sugar but it’s bad for him.”

Mr. was back in the pantry, gathering peppers and potatoes to complete their order.

As I boxed the last of the groceries, I asked if they needed help getting it out to the car.

“We ride our bikes”, said Mrs.

“But this is a heavy box”, I said.

“But I have a new basket and it holds all of this beautifully. I was so blessed to get the basket – can you believe our good fortune?”

“But it’s raining”, I said.

“Oh, well then, we’ll wait”, said Mrs.

“Let me drive you home”, I said.

“You would do that?”

“Of course, I said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to rain and it really is a heavy box.” (And, truth be told, they were the last shoppers of the day and we were all tired and wanting to go home).

“Lover”, Mrs. said to her husband, “She is going to give us a ride home!”

“Oh, Mom”, said Mr., “that is so nice of her. I am tired but I would ride my bike.” (NOTE: Mr. recently finished Chemo treatments and is pale and frail.)

Upon arrival at their room-above-the-salon apartment, Mrs. invited me in. Culturally, I knew it would be rude to refuse.

We parked the bikes alongside the building and as I was walking back to the van to re-park, I overheard Mr. say to Mrs., “They are so CHRISTIAN there.”

“I know, they are all wonderful people”, said Mrs.

“And not just at Christmas”, Mr. replied, “they are like that all the time!”

Mrs. and I trudged up the steep wooden stairs. Mr. stayed with the bikes so no one would take them. After I left, they would be locked to the railing along the indoor staircase.

Mrs. opened the door to their ONE ROOM home. It was sparse. And immaculately clean. It broke my heart.

“Can you believe this beautiful place?” Mrs. said with great pride. “Where I am from people would say, ‘how can you afford such luxury?’ “. I hoped my facial expression belied my shock.

“Here is our sleeping.” [a full sized mattress set in the middle of the room], “and over here is the apothecary where we keep all of our supplies” [a canvas and metal book shelf]. “This is the kitchen”, [a dormitory refrigerator next to the canvas shelves, with a hot plate and one pot sitting on top], “and here is our place to entertain friends and have company” [a small couch draped with an afghan, a small rug, and an upholstered foot stool]. There was a small table, two chairs, another shelving unit with dishes and clothes, and a small dresser. Carefully displayed in the corner of the room were 3 guitars and an electric amplifier.

“Do you play?” I asked.

“No, my husband, can you believe, was able to start playing again 3 weeks ago. My heart soared! He has been so sick – what a bad summer we had. He has not been able to play his beautiful music and then, 3 weeks ago, he picked up one of the guitars and played! Now he plays every night. I have to say, ‘Lover, it’s 9:30 and the neighbors are going to complain. You must stop for today’. And he does, but we both want it to go on.”

She told me of their nightly devotions and how they never missed an opportunity to thank God for all of their blessings. I remarked that I was so inspired at her joyful and positive attitude, knowing that their lives had been especially difficult this past year. She kissed my hand! She said, “I am so grateful. God is so good to us. I am honestly happy.”

We walked downstairs, hugged in the rain, and I knew I would never be the same person again.

Why do we do this work? Because in blessing we are blessed. In giving we receive. In loving we are loved.

To my friends and family, I am going to stop apologizing for ignoring you. You know I love you and you have extravagantly poured your love on me. If you know me, if you ‘get’ why my life is prioritized the way it is, I thank you. I’ll be around in the new year and we’ll celebrate then. For now, if you need to reach me, I’ll be at work. Thank God.


#1 Lisa said:

Thank you forgiving us a glimpse into the lives of people with truly grateful hearts. They are teachers.

#2 Bruce Roller said:

Thank you for your response, Lisa. St. Vincent de Paul wrote, "Tge poor are our teachers." In our privileged arrogance, may we never forget this.

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