The Single Life: Your Mission (If You Choose to Accept It)
- 2010 16 Sep
So maybe a missions trip is out this year, or maybe you've been there, done that. Maybe you, like many singles, have, um ... commitment issues ... so you don't want to sign up for a shift in the children's ministry.
Maybe you already helped build a house for a needy family, served meals at the mission, and you're not the street corner evangelism type. So what kind of "missions" work is left for you to do?
Look, I'm not trying to take you on a guilt trip—I promise! I'd just like to point out that missions opportunities don't always come wrapped in trips to a foreign territories or as part of organized events. There are any number of things you can do on an as-needed (or "as you can") basis. No passport or special skills required, just an open heart and a willing spirit.
For today's discussion, I've divided these opportunities into three types.
- Hands On - these are face-to-face activities that require some interpersonal interaction.
- Hands Off - these are ‘once removed' kind of activities that may require interaction, but from a distance
- Sleight of Hand -these are mission projects done "secret agent style" where no one knows it was you (except you and God, of course).
Let's begin with the ones most people find the scariest, shall we?
"Hands On" Missions
- First on the list, that staple of church work everywhere, visiting shut-ins. You don't have to drop in unannounced only to sit there making awkward conversation with someone you don't know. Call ahead. Offer to bring a meal, then share it with them. Ask if they have anything you can do around the house or take a game to play. If your shut-in is elderly, ask them to tell you about their life. You may make a new friend and learn something in the process.
- Then there's the flip side of shut-ins: caretaker relief. I know single moms whose dearest wish is just to go grocery shopping without their kids. Caring for aging parents can be exhausting; a few hours away can give the caretaker/child the strength to go on another day.
- What about putting in a few hours at a local charity? Maybe they need their storeroom organized or help stuffing envelopes or something. It can't hurt to call and ask.
- Of course, there's always good old-fashioned neighborliness. If you know someone who, for whatever reason, doesn't have the time or money to deal with their yard, offer to mow the grass or trim the hedges. Drop off a (disposable) plate of cookies with a friendly note. Stop and say "Hi" when you see them in the yard. Does that qualify as "missions" work? Darn tootin'.
"Hands Off" Missions
This kind of thing is a little less frightening for the shy among us and can be a fun outlet for creative types. This category covers things like:
- Sending a note or a card to someone. Could be someone you know, could be someone you've always admired, could be a random soldier ... never underestimate the power of written encouragement.
- Take reading material, games, or movies to shelters, nursing homes, or places like Ronald McDonald Houses.
- Many local hospitals need donated baby items for mothers who don't have basic necessities. If you're crafty, you could even make a blanket or outfit for a newborn in need.
- Nursing home activity directors always need birthday cards, anniversary cards, thinking of you cards, etc. You don't even have to know any elderly people, just get creative with paper and glue (or pick up a few boxes at the store), then drop them by a local nursing home. The activities director will be thrilled.
"Sleight of Hand" Missions
I've done missions/giving of all kinds and my experience has been that the secret method is by far the most fun. Doing good anonymously is a kick! When you can only giggle about your good deed with God, it becomes something personal between the two of you. It also decreases the occasional awkwardness that happens when one party feels beholden to another.
Anonymous gifts tend to be of the monetary kind, but may not be your only option. Still, I'd like to share a few ideas for sharing the wealth (or sacrificial giving, depending on the current state of your bank account) to several types of needy souls:
- Anyone: Cash is always good. You never know what bill may be going unpaid. Alternatively, you could pay someone's electric bill one month, slide a grocery store gift card into purse or pocket, or make arrangements to pay for an oil change. (Car maintenance can go out the window when money is tight.)
- Job Seeker: Gift certificate for dry cleaner, nail salon, shoe shine stand, or barber shop. Help them dress for success and they'll feel more confident at that next interview.
- Financially-Challenged Family: Gift card to cover movie tickets (don't forget the popcorn!) for the family. When money is really tight, the chance to feel "normal" even for a few hours goes a long way. Or send them dinner fixings (this can be a little tricky to pull off in stealth mode, but you'll find a way).
- Suffering Single: A restaurant gift card to a spot frequented by the singles group will allow them to take part in after-church fellowship without wondering if anyone will notice they only had water along with the free chips and salsa.
These are just some ideas to get you started: You'll think of more, I know you will. And when you do, why don't you share them in the comments section below this article? One of those ideas may be just what someone else is looking for.
Finally—and this is important—once you give a gift, let it go. You no longer have any claim on it, so you have no say in how it's used. It's possible the recipient won't react the way you wanted or do what you expected with your gift. That's OK. Just remember, you don't know the whole story. As they say at the end of each Iron Chef battle, "Put it down and walk away." And be happy in the knowledge that when you've done something even for "the least of these" you've done it for the Lord.
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
**This column first published on September 16, 2010.