It was “Bring Your Child to Work Day” at the skilled nursing community in a northern Colorado city, and 7 year old Maggie was excited! Her mom often talked about the interesting people she helped take care of as she made her housekeeping rounds: cleaning, sweeping, collecting trash, and so much more. Mom never said their specific names or anything, but Maggie was fascinated by the things mom told her about what life was like when many of the residents were growing up in the “old days”.
They arrived at mom’s work, and Maggie grabbed her backpack. Mom had told her to pack a snack and a book to read because she’d told Maggie there might be times during the day that she’d have to stay in the staff break room or the community activity room. She’d explained patient privacy rules to Maggie – that she’d have to be sure it was OK with patients before Maggie could see them.
As it turned out, patients were delighted to see 7 year old Maggie. They loved it when children came to visit. They were almost as excited as Maggie was to see “all the grandmas and grandpas”! Maggie went with her mom to clean one of the “grandma’s” rooms. As mom bustled around the room, emptying the trash, cleaning the bathroom, dusting, wiping, and tidying, the lady said something that stopped Maggie’s mom in her tracks and brought tears to her eyes.
She said, “Thank you, honey. You know seeing you just brightens my day. You make my room smell so good. When you clean up my messes, I feel so special. God sends you every day to bless me. I just know it.” Maggie had never seen her mom so speechless, but she caught on fast. Nodding her head, Maggie added, “God made mom, and you, and me, and God does special ALL the TIME. Isn’t that great?”
About that time, the “grandma lady” noticed the book in Maggie’s hand. She said, “What a nice book you have, young lady. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one.” Maggie’s eyes lit up with excitement (she loved books). “Mom, can I stay here for a while and read my book with her…please?”
Seeing her daughter’s excited look mirrored in the patient’s eyes, how could Mom refuse? As Mom went on to clean the next room, Maggie settled in a chair next to the bed and opened her book.
Later, as Maggie and her mom travelled home after the work day, Maggie turned to her mom and said, “Mom, I think I see what the pastor meant when she talked about how God shapes us all different, but special. And God sent Jesus to make sure everybody, no matter how they’re shaped or what people think, know for sure that they’re special and loved like crazy. Right, Mom?” “Absolutely, honey. Absolutely.”
Maggie changed her mom’s view of her work role that day. Unknown to Maggie, her mom had routinely described herself as “just a cleaning lady”, not that important to those she helped daily at the skilled nursing community. Used to seeing so many others as special – patients, nurses, doctors, chaplains, kitchen staff, and so many more in her life – she had lost sight of the fact that she, like everyone else in the world, was created and loved by God. Maggie reminded her that day that no one was more important or more loved than another in God’s eyes – the eyes that really mattered.
Before that day, Maggie’s mom had read this verse with human eyes: “Doesn’t the potter have the power over the clay to make one pot for special purposes and another for garbage from the same lump of clay?” (Romans 9:21) Now she saw these words differently. Now she realized that God fashions each human being from the same “lump of clay”: those the world defines as “special purpose” and those the world defines as “garbage” – same God, same material, in the same image: God’s.
We are – each and every one of us – shaped by God, and equally precious in God’s sight.
(This an excerpt from the book, “Exploring Romans – Everyday Stories”, the 6th book in a series written by Dr. Adams. All the volumes in the series can be purchased through Chalice Press - chalicepress.com or on amazon.com.)