Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Gift of Tongues

As a part-time pastor, I'm the member of the family with daytime flexibility.  That means laundry and kid-shuttling and gardening and cleaning.  It also means study and writing.   But it also means I can take time to work with the local Meals on Wheels, which provides nutrition to the homebound elderly.  Pastor though I may be, I'm not "in leadership" here.  This is just a dirt-under-your-fingernails opportunity to simply be a servant.

I take my marching orders from a dear old saint who has coordinated the program for years, first from a warehouse near a hospital, and now from the basement of the nearby Baptist church.

My job, as I've chosen to accept it? I'm the delivery guy.  My route fluxes and varies from month to month, as folks seek the service or move...or pass on.

This week marked my second delivery to an elderly Korean woman, who spends her days sitting alone in the walk-out basement of a townhouse.  She's frail, semi-mobile, and knows very little English.  When I arrived, she was perched in a chair by an open sliding glass door.

As I approached, she was still and expressionless, her long-view gaze taking me in as another passer by.

I came nearer, and she looked up, still solemn.

"Ahn-yang-hasaeyo," I chirruped in greeting, smiling broadly, using the words for greeting given me by a Korean-American friend.  I stretched out that last "OH" as I'd heard it spoken hundreds of times in the hallways at my old church, and as I hear it spoken into cellphones in Annandale's sprawling Korea Mall.

Her expressionless face lit up with a huge bright smile, and giving her a curt respectful bow while still smiling, I presented her with her meals.

"Thankyouthankyou," she said, beaming.

"Have a great day," I said, having pretty much exhausted my vocubulary.  Well, I suppose I could have counted to three, but I'm not sure it would have worked in context.

"Nehnehnehneh," she said, still smiling, clutching her meal.

That's "yesyesyesyes," I think.