I spent a summer in New Mexico doing volunteer work at various places. I assisted with religious education, I worked at a food bank, and I helped severely disabled children. A religious order I considered joining managed the volunteer program, and during those three months, I lived in their convent. The sisters provided food and housing, and we had many different experiences while serving with them. We also participated in the prayers of the sisters, which really helped grow my faith.
I received an assignment offer to become a counselor in a camp for adults with developmental disabilities. I loved music and prayer, and I had prior experience in working with developmentally disabled people, so this opportunity excited me. Still, I felt a bit anxious, because I would be a stranger to them, and some find this unsettling. But, I went anyway.
When I arrived at the camp, I attended a meeting with all the campers and other counselors. I assumed I would be with one of the counselors and assist wherever I could. They explained how we would arrive at our destination, and assigned me the task of driving three campers to the site. It sounded like a good idea, except I had no idea how to get there, I would be driving a car which I had never driven before, and I had never met the campers! But this was my duty.
I found out who my passengers were and which car I would be using. The head of the camp said I could follow him. But, what if he lost me! I had no map of the unfamiliar area. Luckily, he drove slowly, and it proved to be a beautiful day. I started the car without issue, but then the windshield wipers started wishing. “Just turn them off,” you say, but I tried every button available, without results! I had to quickly pull out, anyway because I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t want to wreck the car, so I tried to drive, stay caught up with my leader, while still searching for the wiper button. Stress filled me. Could I really do this? What I had gotten myself into? And where in the world was that stupid wiper button?
As I continued to tail the camp leader, I heard soft giggles from the campers in my car. They did their best to stifle themselves, knowing I already felt stressed. In a soft, helpful voice, Julie finally said, “I think your windshield wipers are on.” Her sincerity was touching, but hilarious. I laughed out loud, and soon, we were all laughing. There I sat, driving a van on a sunny day with windshield wipers swiping at full speed.
As it turned out, I had a wonderful time. The campers were enthusiastic, and I slept in the same cabin with them. Their incredible faith proved simple and honest, with such reverence for Jesus and joy for the life and creation He has given us. I felt exhausted by week’s end and slept for two days, afterward. However; the experience was something I’m glad I didn’t miss. By the way, eventually I turned off the wipers!
As I look back, I wonder how I accomplished as much as I did while attending the camp. Of course, I was much younger, but also anxious and fearful, yet I had a strong desire to follow Jesus'”no matter where He led me. I felt stressed and worried when I pulled out in that van. I certainly couldn’t see any humor in the situation. All I could think about was what else could go wrong. Yet Julie had the wisdom and faith to tell me in such a gentle way that my wipers were going, which provided comic relief to my tension and allowed me to see the humor of the situation. Only when I laughed at myself could the campers and I relax and enjoy the experience.
Most people would have tried to help find the right button, or at least remained quiet in fear that I’d snap at them in my frustration. Julie, however, knew just what to do. She brought humor to the situation when I could not. I learned a lot from Julie that day. Maybe we all can.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3-10 (New American Bible)
We sometimes seek wisdom from instrumental people with impressive positions in our churches, or from celebrities with extensive media exposure. We may seek wisdom from books written by scholars with major degrees. We might even discover wisdom from some of these sources. But do we really believe we can find wisdom from “the meek?” We tend to think of the meek as people who must be cared for, and we look for skills to teach them. We might see potential in the tasks they perform, but do we really believe they have the wisdom to teach us?
Julie and the others in the van were able to see the humor in our situation, while I became more and more stressed. Julie’s gentle message was profound. By stating the obvious, she allowed me to see the absurd hilarity in the situation. Her sincere willingness to help caused me to see that swishing wipers weren’t the end of the world. My ego had gotten in the way of my understanding. I felt afraid they would find me to be an incompetent counselor if I couldn’t turn off the wipers. What would the other staff think if they knew I couldn’t complete such a simple task? Mild and meek Julie showed me wisdom.
The scripture passage I used above is one of the most loved in the Bible. I thought it appropriate for this story about Julie and the others, who were my peacemakers; the meek, the persecuted. You might wonder how they are persecuted. When we don’t see these individuals as being capable of teaching us, instead of the reverse, and when we think they aren’t capable of spiritual wisdom, then we are actively persecuting them.
Oftentimes, they can comprehend situations we can’t, because of our worries and fears. Knowledge can come from those we thought needed our care and teaching. Maybe, just maybe, they have something to teach us. What do you think?