Outreach and Joy

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheena and Michael Koops share three daughters, Victoria, Moira and Arwen. The Koops’ have worked within the band, private and public school systems within urban, rural, First Nations, storefront, and community schools. Michael and Sheena share in Sunday Circle at Fort Qu’Appelle’s Community Outreach. Check out Sheena’s latest thoughts HERE.]

It’s ten a.m. The turkeys and hams are almost ready to be carved. The potatoes, turnips, and yams are boiling. The gravy is bubbling. The corn, stuffing and perogies are ready for the oven. The cranberries are wiggling in jelly. The buns are buttered. The Santa bags are ready for pick up. I taste the homemade Caesar salad dressing and I’m in heaven.

But can heaven really be that easy?

And here I go again.

This is how my mind works. I take a picture — good or bad — and I start asking questions.

I’m a worrier. I worry if I take things too lightly. I worry what people think. I worry if my heart is in the right place. I worry if I’m going to spend too much at Christmas. I worry about our Community Outreach. I worry about oppression, racism, mental health. I worry about Chief Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation who is on a hunger strike. I worry about my responsibility to unimplemented treaty. I worry about my job and my church. I worry about my marriage, kids, family, friends.

But one thing I didn’t worry about this year was our annual Outreach Christmas Dinner taking place at our high school again this year. Keitha — my organizing partner and dear friend — and I have learned over the years that it always comes together. This year the first donation was a collection taken at Fort Music’s Christmas Concert. Wooo Hooo. It was a surprise.

I love surprises, the good surprises, like that time our Director of Curriculum and Instruction was walking by and one of my students was doing the Sword Dance at the front of my classroom as part of her Macbeth project. I wasn’t doing anything extra-ordinary, I was just opening up the space where a student could be herself, but to get “caught” by one of my bosses, witnessing something extra-ordinary, that will always be one of my teaching highs.

When Jason assigned me “Joy” for the the Advent Blog, I smiled. I knew that was our Outreach Dinner date. It’s the perfect combination of topic and event, but I’ve been thinking about that sheep and goats story from Matthew. I wanted to write about that, too. And if I just talk about how wonderful the Christmas Dinner is, I feel like I’m not being fully honest because, honestly, I have trouble feeling joyful because of all my worry. In fact, I worry if I’m good enough. I worry if I’m going to heaven. I worry if I’m self-righteous. I often worry away my joy.

It’s eleven-thirty and the community is trickling in for lunch. The food carts are being loaded in the Commercial Cooking kitchen. Elders, children, men, and women, all nations are under one roof, at one table, and I take a big, beautiful breath.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me.”

Then the just and upright will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You?”

And the King will reply to them, “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40, AMP)

It’s one-thirty. The tables are being cleared. The left-over food is packaged and sent home with friends and neighbours. Today, I will not worry. I will be joyful. I will remember my Christmas Outreach lesson. I will walk beside humble people. I will follow their lead, praying away my worry. I will be joyful over and over as I hear the King in the voice of the least (in the estimation of men) of these.



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