In a season of gift wish lists and commercial overload, it is a different kind of gift I am remembering.
Early in 2000, I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. I was extremely ill—in constant pain and always tired, sleeping up to 16 hours per day. I couldn’t work full time and Brad was working as an intern in Peace and Justice at Community of Christ Headquarters. As the months passed and my medical bills mounted, we were feeling the financial strain. I could not qualify for unemployment or temporary disability. The day came when we had to admit we could no longer continue renting an apartment. We would have to move out. Even though it was difficult, we stood before our congregation and asked for help. We were hoping to store our belongings in someone’s garage and maybe find someone else to let us live in their basement for a while.
But, giftedness abounds within our faith community. Care and concern, generosity, willingness to help—these are gifts that endure. The word quickly disseminated from one person to the next, and soon some family friends heard about our need. It turns out they had an extra house laying around they were willing to lend us. What were the odds of that?
Before we knew what was happening, we had been moved by church friends from a dumpy little duplex into an adorable 2 bedroom house which was offered to us rent free in exchange for upkeep and yard work. It was a dream come true. We asked humbly for crumbs from the table, and were offered a copious banquet instead.
We helped our friends as well. Sad circumstances lead to extra house. Having someone trustworthy to take care of it gave them time to grieve the loss of a loved one and decide what they wanted to do with the house.
As my health cycled through periods of improvement and relapse, it was such a gift to have the safe space of that home in which to heal. We lived there about two years until the church relocated us out of state. As the years passed, I recovered my health thanks to much prayer and great medical care.
Ten years later, I remembered that gift when I found myself on the other side of similar circumstances. During the economic downturn a friend was laid off and like too many folks was having trouble finding work. Brad & I were new homeowners and we decided to offer free housing to our friend. She lived with us for two years until her financial situation improved. It warmed our hearts to give the same gift that had helped us so many years before.