Making Enough Room in Life for Others
- Awnali Mills Contributing Writer
- 2006 3 Mar
A few weeks ago, my grandmother passed away. I’m still grieving her deeply and this morning I cried out to God, “Why do people have to die? I wasn’t ready to loose her.” God gently reminded me that without death, there would be no room for new life. Then He brought to mind a memory of my grandmother.
My grandfather, who has also passed on, was difficult to sit next to. His wide-legged posture would scoot you over on a car seat until you were practically sitting on the armrest. Bids for more room on my part were strongly resisted by his immovable leg. My grandmother, though, was just the opposite. If I walked into the room and there were already 3 people sitting on the couch, it didn’t make any difference to my grandmother. She would give me a wide smile and beckon to me. She would scrunch herself up into the smallest possible space and say, “Come here, there’s plenty of room for you here.” Then she would put her arm around me, squeeze me tight, and settle me against her.
See, my grandmother was all about making room for people, both in her life and in her heart. I think her impoverished childhood gave my grandmother an empathy for children. As a secretary for various elementary schools, she was a mother figure for hundreds of children. If a child wasn’t getting the proper care at home, she did it at school. She combed, braided and washed countless heads of hair, and made sure each child had enough to eat. She handled discipline problems, and made sure that each child knew that he or she was loved. She knew every child who attended her schools, and eventually knew all the parents, too. She was the hand of Christ reaching out to every child she encountered.
And her loving concern didn’t stop there. She made room for people in restaurants, banks, and grocery stores. She absolutely never met a stranger. The last time she came to visit us, we went to the airport to pick her up. A couple with a child walked down the hallway with her. The child gave her a big hug and yelled, “Bye, Aunt Barbara!” Well, these folks didn’t look like relatives to me, and when I asked her about it, she told me all about their family. Still confused, I asked when she’d met them. She replied, “Oh, on the plane.” And more people came over in the baggage claim to tell her goodbye. That’s just the kind of person she was. She truly never met a stranger. Her heart was big enough to love everyone she encountered, and somehow they sensed it. My grandfather used to worry about her friendliness, that it, coupled with the large diamonds she liked to wear, would get her mugged. It never happened.
She made friends with store clerks, anyone in line with her, bank tellers, strangers on airplanes, waitresses and cooks. It really bothered her that she wasn’t fast enough to greet visitors in church, so she started sitting in the back so that she could catch them before they slipped out.
And all of this makes me wonder. How much room is there in my life for other people? I always have a convenient excuse for not taking time for others. I homeschool two teenagers with full schedules. I’m a youth minister’s wife. I’m a full time college student. But, truthfully, I don’t think time is the issue. It’s desire. I’m often simply not interested in other people’s problems. If I don’t look, I won’t be convicted to do anything.
Last Sunday a missionary spoke at our church. She was urging us to become involved in our own backyards. She focused on Matt 10:42 which says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward." She pointed out that each of us has the time and resources to offer someone a cup of cold water. We are not called on to do big things, but to do little things in the name of Christ. We are called upon to be kind to our neighbors. We are to be patient with slow clerks and slower drivers. We are to be gentle with bank tellers and make room for children.
It’s my ambition now to imitate my grandmother. I want my words and my actions to say to the world, “It’s okay. Come sit by me. There’s room for you here.”
Awnali Mills and her family live in Richmond, VA. It’s been a difficult year, as they’ve lost 4 family members in the last two months. Even though they live across the country from their family, God is good and their church family has made sure that the Mills have felt supported and loved—and that there’s plenty of room.