This little light of mine: Opportunities (pt. 2)
The day before our homeless friend Betty arrived on our doorstep looking for help, a different woman, older, more confident and housed, knocked on my office door. Her name was “Kim” and she was from one of the AA groups that meets in our meetinghouse. We had never met so I welcomed her in and we made the customary introductions.
She shared with me something that happened to her moments before. On her way to her usual lunchtime-meeting she felt an overwhelming concern to help women in crisis or homeless. She felt God was calling her to do something but she wasn’t sure what it was yet. She followed a prompting to come and speak with me and share the concern. We had a lovely conversation and had an instant kinship (over the course of the next couple years Kim became a very close friend and even a mentor to me) but neither of us knew exactly how to respond to her concern at that moment.
In Quaker parlance, Kim had an “Opportunity” and took it. God, softly spoken, nudged my friend in two ways and rather than shake it off, pretend it didn’t happen or pull a Jonah, she received the Opportunity and responded accordingly.
A capital ‘O’ Opportunity can be described as a sacred moment or an “occasion…for the Spirit of God to move among the gathered meeting” but there is no reason why that same thing can’t happen between two people. It is like when a door cracks open ever-so slightly and the invitation is to walk through. We don’t have to, but if we are attentive enough to notice and willing enough to respond God can turn an Opportunity into something beautiful.*
Fast forward 24 hours. Kim’s visit the day before set the backdrop and even the attitude with which we could receive Betty’s visit as a big ‘O’ Opportunity. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to recognize that clues of something bigger unfolding, but it does take a willingness to listen and respond.
Whatever it was that day, the Opportunity was there and would have been foolish not to receive it kindly. Yet, I do wonder if there are certain virtues, practices, theologies, and even communities that help us be more prepared to receive than others?
While Betty slept on a pew in the sanctuary, I spent the next few hours surfing the waves of cyberspace and making countless phone calls, educating myself on the social programs available in our area and desperately trying to find Betty a pillow to lay her head on. That search produced very little fruit, but the education has proved worthwhile. I heard many things that afternoon: It is just too late in the day. All beds are full. There is no place to send her. Everyone is hurting these days. No aid at this time.
With my browser still pulsating and cursor blinking, I put out a request on Facebook to Camas Friends, I sent text messages to a handful of individuals I knew would receive this Opportunity and by 5pm ten of us were sitting around the table eating a home-cooked meal with Betty. Friends had brought warmer clothes, socks, gloves, a hat and waterproof coat. We gave her a backpack with some food and other necessities. If the first route taken proved fruitless, the second one was abundant in its generosity and quick in its response.
One thing this taught me was that our mission as Friends is not so much to have it all worked out in advance, or have every supply for every situation, but rather to be ready to receive these opportunities, and to paraphrase something Lorraine Watson likes to say, “trust that God will give you what you need to fulfill what you are being asked to do at that time.”
What seemed to be one woman’s leading, preceded a concrete Opportunity, and turned into a movement of open hands that has reshaped our entire community.
To be continued…
*This idea of “Opportunity” is more fully developed in Brian Drayton’s “On Living With a Concern for Gospel Ministry.”
Contributed by Wess Daniels, Camas Friends