Grace Never Takes a Snow Day

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This past Monday, I had the opportunity to do some community snow shoveling.  A couple from our church needed their driveway shoveled in order to get to a doctor’s appointment, so Sunday night I received a text inviting me to gather at 10 a.m. at their house on Monday morning to do the deed. (By the way if you are interested in helping out in this way, you can be on that text list.  Text me at 6056107793 and I’ll get you on it!)   I have to tell you that I wasn’t “super psyched” to do this.  It was President’s day.  Our church office was closed. There had been 6 other folk that had agreed to be there, so they really didn’t need me. I had a nice leisurely day off planned, but something (was it my mother?) kept tugging at my heart saying, “this would be good for you, Brook.”

One of the reasons I wanted to go was I knew who we were helping: Harry and Anna.  A couple have had several health issues piled upon several health issues piled upon…you get the picture!   I wanted to do something to lift their spirits.   But another reason I felt like going was the spontaneity of this thing.  We didn’t know about it ahead of time.  There wasn’t a bunch of planning around it.  It was just someone saying, “we’re doing this thing, you want to join us?”   

One more reason I wanted to go is that it reminded me of my childhood.  In the Dakotas snow isn’t unusual, and before snow blowers I would often head out as a kid in the early hours of the morning on a “snow day” and knock on neighbors’ doors and offer to shovel their walks.  Many folks would give me money for the work, but sometimes it was just a hot cocoa and a smile.   These folks didn’t know it, but my first bike was purchased by their gratitude! 

As we started to gather at Harry and Anna’s place, Karl and I arrived first and were disappointed at the equipment we had.  The snow had “frozen” over.  It was crusted on the top and there was ice underneath.  Our “plastic” snow shovels were never going to cut it.  Just then, Bill and Karen arrived.   They are new to our church, so it was great to see them getting involved, but Karl and I were much more excited about their equipment…they had a metal shovel that cut right through the “iced-over” snow!   Soon Danielle and Andrew and Brad (also new to our church) arrived, and before we knew it, we had a system going.  Bill and few others taking terms chopping the ice and the rest of us scooping.   20 minutes later we were taking a pic with Anna and Harry! 

As we stood on their driveway someone noticed that their neighbors needed to be shoveled out.  “Hey, why not! We’ve got a system now!” someone shouted.  And 10 minutes later we were done with that! Just then I thought of Jerry and Deanna.  I knew they lived in the area and wondered about their driveway.  15 minutes later we were all in our cars and headed for home with a smile on our faces!  I felt wonderful!

I didn’t realize this, but what we had just done is actually a “thing” called “tapping folks on the shoulder.”  Recently Danielle Walsh, our congregational assistant, and I watched a video series about building up our volunteer pool at the church and one of the techniques they talk about was the art of “tapping folks on the shoulder.”   The idea is that inviting others to be a part of the church’s ministries isn’t done best by a “nominating committee” but instead by the natural organic process of tapping folks on the shoulder:  “Hey, you want to help me out with coffee today?”   “Hey, you want to help me with youth group tonight?”  “Hey, I’m making Latte’s this morning, you want to learn how?”   

According to the research, this  does two things.  One it gives a person a chance to taste what that ministry is all about before they have to commit to a longer stint in this ministry.  And second, it allows for more natural development of community: by tapping someone on the shoulder we get to know that person not for what they can do for us, but as someone we’ve worked beside…shoulder to shoulder.  There’s a bond that’s being formed that strengthens who we are.

So, the next time you have something to do in the church or for the community, think about “tapping someone on the shoulder” and inviting them to join you.  Take it from someone whose eaten the “snow cone”: this is fun!

Your pastor and friend, grateful to be in the new “shoveling” small group at Bear Creek, Pastor Brook   

Tim Schaaf