Monday, August 30, 2010
Mel knew that showing the love of Jesus through good works was how he could express that love and maybe bring others to Jesus. He knew that old people had many needs, and his general lack of experience in the world was not an obstacle in finding good works to do for them. At seventeen years of age Mel was quite aware of his lack of useful skills. However, he could do little tasks, useful tasks. And, he could listen.
Moving up the steps of the Sunshine Home Mel spotted an old man sitting on the porch. The old man had claimed a nice spot of morning sunshine, and appeared to be planning to make a day of it. He looked surprisingly like the old man character in the movie "UP."
"Quit staring, boy." said the old man. "I am not Ed Asner, or his damned cartoon character."
Mel halted in his ascent of the stairs, goggling at the old man and wondering if he was psychic.
"I don't have to be psychic to know what people think, boy." the old man said. "I've been around, that's all. I've seen everything. Twice. I wouldn't go in there, if I were you."
"Uh, why not?" Mel asked.
"Blatherspider." said the old man.
"Education hasn't improved much in the past eighty years." mumbled the old man. "Blatherspider." he said more loudly. "Talks excessively. Lays in wait for any pair of ears. Hunts for sympathy. Tells the same stories over and over. Not interesting stories, either. The Blatherspider will drain the life from you, boy."
Mel smiled. "Are you talking about one of the ladies living here?"
"Ladies?" queried the old man. "Oh, most of them will talk your ear off as well. Nothing like the Blatherspider, however. The ladies don't cast an invisible web over you, binding you to your fate. No, she may look like a lady, but she's a spider. A Blatherspider."
"I guess I will just have to take my chances." said Mel. "For Jesus sake."
"Better pray to that Jesus of yours, boy. Pray for strength to endure."
Mel smiled and nodded his head as he walked past the old man and began to open the door to the Sunshine Home.
"Oh, and if you survive would you bring me a lemonade?" said the old man.
"I would be happy to, Sir." said Mel, as he stepped inside.
His eyes adjusted to the gloom. It seemed a bit darker inside than he had expected. Looking about he saw nobody in the large guest lobby. Then he detected a shift in a distant corner. Something small and white. A face came up out of the gloom. It was a lady.
Her eyes locked on him from the depths of coke bottle glasses. She smiled and gestured toward him. "Come in, young man. Come in!"
He moved toward her, a growing trepidation waring within him with the love of Jesus. He reminded himself of why he was here. Putting on a smile of his own he moved more resolutely toward her in her dark corner.
"Good morning, ma'am. My name is Mel. I am from the church just down the street."
"Oh, a good Christian boy." she said, looking up at him. Mel nodded. "Would you care for some tea?"
Mel said he would love some tea.
"The tea things are over there." she said, gesturing toward a kitchenette near the back of the lobby. "It is a bit hard for me. Would you mind making the tea?"
Mel said he wouldn't mind at all, and moved to the kitchenette. As he began she started to reminisce about her church experiences and her sainted husband. Mel worked, responding where appropriate. He brought her a cup of tea. She tasted it and requested a bit of sugar. As he got the sugar she moved on to another subject. Someone from her past, someone who had not treated her well.
He returned and assisted her in getting a bit of sugar in her cup. She was frail and her hands shook. Her eyes were steady, however, behind those coke bottle glasses. She moved on to someone else who had done her dirt as he settled with his own tea. He attempted to interject from time to time, but she had the bit between her teeth and was running fast and hard with the conversation.
Mel wanted to tell her about the love of Jesus, but every turn in the conversation led back to her and her well rehearsed stories about nothing. Most were laced with bitterness and deep longing. He knew that the love of Jesus could cure bitterness and fill that longing, but he could never get in a word to share that good news with her.
Eventually he realized that he was just there to respond to her conversational needs. In the name of Jesus he settled in for the duration, replying with a polite sound whenever it seemed appropriate. His tea grew cold, and his butt began to feel like it was going to sleep. It was going to be a long morning.
It was close to noon when he stepped out onto the porch with two glasses of lemonade. He handed one to the old man, who accepted it without comment. Mel sat next to him, sipping at his lemonade and watching the nothing happening on the street.
"She must have needed to go to the bathroom, or I wouldn't be seeing you here." said the old man. "Pumping her full of tea is you best defense. She must have a huge bladder, though. She can go on and on and on..."
He expected the old man to gloat, but he just drank his lemonade and watched the same nothing. The nothing was eventually broken by a young woman walking up the path to the Sunshine Home. Mel recognized her. Jennie from the church youth group.
She bounced up the steps, waved to Mel, and put her hand on the doorknob.
"I wouldn't go in there." Mel said.
"Why not?" she asked, holding the door partway open.
"Oh." she said with a smile. "You met Mrs. Loomis, did you?"
"You know her?" asked Mel.
"Yes." said Jennie. "That is why I knew that Jesus wanted me to do the good work of serving meals. I don't know if I could have stood another hour listening to her. Jesus loves her, but she sure makes it hard for the rest of us."
"Gives you a pretty good idea of what Hell is all about." muttered the old man.
Jennie bounced on into the Sunshine Home, skirting the lobby and avoiding eye contact with Mrs. Loomis. Apparently her webs only covered her dark little corner of the lobby.
"You know, boy." said the old man, "Jesus might just be calling you to clean toilets. The staff does alright, but mine could use a little extra attention. No spiders, there, either."
"I'll think about it." said Mel, sipping at his lemonade.