Listening to God
by Kari Snyder
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” –Philippians 4:5
Lillian lived at the nursing home that I worked at when I was in my twenties. I spent three years in this small facility which was located in northeast Minneapolis. The home was nestled in a neighborhood and sat across from a park. There were no more than 100 residents who called it home. We took care of those who had many health needs and memory care issues but also had residents who lived independently. Since the facility was on the small side and staffing (as is the case at most health care facilities) was limited, I was lucky enough to have many jobs. I had spent time as an intern, the staffing coordinator for the nursing department, the receptionist, the front office manager, the fix-it person (when I worked on the weekends and there wasn’t a maintenance person available), and lastly, as human resources director. Of all the positions I held, my favorite was to work at the front desk.
The largest open space at this facility was adjacent to the front desk. It was here that we held worship services, events, holiday meals (when we needed extra seating for families and friends), and had most regularly scheduled activities. Most folks who lived here had their own set routines and they often crossed into this gathering area. This was no different for Lillian, as this was the place where she sat every single day.
Lillian was, in my eyes, very old. I was never exactly sure of her age, but would have put her well over ninety. She wore three (yes, three) sweaters. The top sweater was always her red one. We would joke that it must be really hot outside when Lillian shed that top sweater. I think it happened twice in the time I was there. She didn’t say much either. She never looked particularly pleased with anything but was always gracious enough to say, “Thank you.”
Lillian had a walker and, every morning, used it to get to her chair which had the best vantage point to view everyone who was entering and leaving the nursing home. She always wore a stoic look but would occasionally give a nod when someone said hello to her. She sat in that chair, her chair, most of the day.
The front desk receptionist had a great view of both the front doors and of Lillian. As I worked at the desk I would spend my time doing what most people do in that position—answering questions (“Yes, we are having pot roast for lunch today,” “No, I don’t know when the beautician is coming to do your perm,” “I am sorry Mr. Johnson that Ethel didn’t clean out the lint filter in the dryer after she dried her clothes. That is unfortunate.”) I would sort the mail, take phone calls, and greet people as they came and went. For the most part it was simple but fun.
Then one day Lillian approached me. I greeted her and asked how she was doing. She didn’t answer. Instead, she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Will the Lord be speaking today?” I wasn’t quite sure I understood her.
So, I responded back, “I’m sorry, what did you ask?”
She looked even more sternly at me and, with much emphasis, asked, “Will the Lord be speaking today on second floor!?”
I was so taken back by this strange question and her need for a serious answer that I paused for a few moments and then replied, “Lillian, I am sure the Lord will be speaking on second floor today.”
“Thank you,” she said and proceeded to turn around and go back to her chair.
It wasn’t long after that interchange that Lillian, who lived on second floor, passed away.
I am certain that Lillian had a connection with the Lord. A strong, quiet and bold connection. I learned something that day. I was taught that a woman who was well over 90 years old–whose days were consumed with gently sitting and watching the world– was much more connected with her faith than I was. I was busy being busy every day. Prayer and time with God took a back seat to life’s demands. I could easily find more things to do instead of taking time to grow my faith life. Lillian taught me the importance of sitting still and listening. She taught me patience. She taught me faith.
I still think about Lillian and her question. And I believe the Lord was waiting for her on second floor.
Kari Snyder is the Senior Adult Program Coordinator for Prince of Peace.