I started to care about people at a very young age.
Through my childhood years, I shared a room with my great grandmother. I spent a lot of time observing her life. She cared for my siblings and me while my parents worked. My grandma was like a second mom to me, my primary caregiver: cooking, cleaning, walking me to the bus stop for school.
Most importantly, she inspired both my sister and me to volunteer at a local nursing home to work with senior citizens. Every Saturday throughout our high school years, we visited residents of Sunnycrest Nursing Home. Sometimes we would chat, other times we would listen to a few tell their stories.
Most often, we would wheel 7-10 elderly people down to the basement where we would play a lively game of carpet bowling. They would angle a wooden ramp from their lap, roll a ball down the ramp then along a green carpet, hoping it would strike several pins. I’ve never met anyone more serious about winning a game of carpet bowling than a man named Roy.
Life is short
For the most part, those were happy Saturdays. But sometimes they were sad. I remember the days when my sister and I would arrive to visit someone in their room, only to learn that they had passed away during the week. Those times showed me that life is short and time is fleeting. Investing time with seniors taught me my first lesson of care. Every person counts.
Every person counts
Every person is of value to God, whether the tiniest baby or the oldest adult. Each story matters. Two passages remind us how God feels about people:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 )
Caring for the spiritual destiny of students
As I reflect on my journey to care, I realize that my care for seniors easily transferred to my care for the spiritual destinies of students. In my work with university students at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier, I became quite close to some of them. I found myself caring for the girls like a big sister.
In our weekly small group I challenged the girls to pray for 5 of their friends who didn’t know Jesus. I said “Just pray for them, ask God to reveal himself. Ask him to give you opportunities to show you care and to share your faith in God.” We prayed for our friends every week. It was amazing how God answered.
Amy started praying.
Soon afterwards, one of her close friends Helen asked her about her faith in God. Amy was able to lead her to know Jesus personally. When our small group heard that story, we were so amazed and thankful.
But the story doesn’t end there! One night, another one of Amy’s friends named York started asking her about her faith, and again, Amy led York to faith in Jesus! By the end of the school year, Amy had seen 2 out of her 5 friends come to faith in God.
God ultimately cares about people more than I do
To be honest though, there are moments when I don’t feel like caring. Sometimes I want to be selfish or I find people unloveable, and I don’t know how to keep on caring for others. I say “God, I can’t do this. I really can’t do this.”
And do you know what God says to me? He says “You’re right, Nancy, you can’t. You can’t care and love people in your own strength.” In those moments when I’m fighting selfishness, bitterness and failure to care, God is saying to me “Cling to me. Look to me. I have infinite capacity to care. Look to me because I am the ultimate caregiver.”
Philippians 2:3 challenges us to care about others.
“In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
How do we persevere in looking to the interests of others? How do we persevere in care? We look to Christ.
…though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-8)