I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the “cart-cleaners” at the various places where I shop.
At one of the grocery stores the cart cleaner says every time, “I have the best job, I get to talk to people all day and make sure they have a clean cart ready to go.” She is not just saying it, she radiates joy and energy.
Yesterday at a different store, when I returned the cart, it was taken from me by a cheerful gentleman, who thanked me for bringing it back so he could clean it. I said, “no thank you for working to keep us all safe.” The other person there who was cleaning the totes said, “it is so fulfilling to have a job that keeps people safe.”
They have joy and gratitude because they know that their job is important. For many it just seems like menial labour, yet they see a greater purpose in it, and they are grateful for what they can do.
It makes me wonder if we all looked at what we are being called to do right now as a “greater purpose”. Dr. Henry says often that our “job” right now is to stay home, stay safe and slow down the spread of Covid 19.
Yet do we think of it that way? There are days when I feel like my apartment is getting smaller. There are also days when I get tired of being alone all the time, and those days when I just want to get together with a real person.
But there are also days when I appreciate the purpose that I have in my work. The worship service to prepare, the people to call and pray for.
I am also grateful that I have more time to reflect on what I believe and what God is teaching me, and hence to write about that process.
And I am grateful that at the end of the day, I reach out to friends I don’t speak to all that often. When I get tired of my own company I inflict it on others, and they don’t seem to mind.
Truthfully though, in many of those calls I learned about the struggles others have. Deaths that have hit them hard. Problems with family members they can do nothing about. One friend that I phoned only because she was on my mind as she lived near the Nova Scotia shootings talked about the people we both know, whose family members were killed that day.
I have learned that when we reach out, even if our only motive was to feel less lonely, we have been given an opportunity to be “Christ” for another. It is a sign that what we do has purpose and that purpose brings gratitude, and perhaps even contentment.
Max Lucado in his chapter on Gratitude says this: Christ based contentment turns us into strong people.
We are called to live in a whole other way right now, and it is how we learn to see God’s calling that determines our strength, our peace, our contentment and even our joy.
Lucado writes especially about the experience of Paul in prison, who writes in Phil 4: 11 that he has learned to be content what ever the circumstances.
His isolation isn’t going to end with being released back into the life he once knew. His isolation would end as he was taken from his prison cell and executed. He has hope, because in God we always have hope, but even as he remains in prison he is content–even grateful.
This attitude says Lucado is a gift from God. He writes: God’s anxiety therapy includes a large, delightful dollop of gratitude.
How do we achieve that? Lucado says by anchoring our heart to the character of God. I am reminded of the hymn: Will your anchor hold?
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love
That anchor keeps us strong, in spite of our attitudes, our shifting moods,our circumstances.
We don’t have to look far to see our blessings. We all have a purpose. Some to clean shopping carts. Others to teach, even from a distance. Some to inspire. Others to listen to another’s pain. Some to pray. Some to wait.
I am reminded of other teachings of Paul about the Body of Christ. Some are the head. Others the little toe. And in between: all the other functions and gifts of the body. From head to toe, all have a function and all are essential.
So when we are called upon to stay home and told that our job is to “stay home, stay safe, slow the spread”, can we endeavour to remember that this is an important calling, and to find contentment and purpose in it–even in the difficult, lonely days when the walls close in?
God of Grace and God of Mercy
Remind us again that you are always with us, even to the ends of the earth
Attract our attention and distract us from our worries and complaints
Teach us how to live your purpose at this time
Inspire us by showing us how we can still make a difference
Train our hearts in patience that produces peace
Uphold us in the days of struggle with your Spirit and your strength
Deliver us from Covid Anxiety
Envelop us in your peace and fill us with love. Amen