Every forest animal already belongs to me,
as do the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every mountain bird;
even the insects in the fields are mine.
Last Sunday we invited children and their families to dress up and head out to two assisted living centers in our community to reverse Trick or Treat. We loaded up on the bus after lunch, full of corn dogs and enthusiasm. We were packing a Columbo, a dragon, a dinosaur, a Minion, and a Minnie Mouse, as well as various other characters. We also brought plenty of candy to hand out. Oh, also, we brought a sweet rescue dog named Sasha Underfoot. Other than that, we prayed for God to fill our hearts with love to give away, and we were off.
At our first stop, the community coordinator, Rosie, met us. She told us we would be going door-to-door to “Trick or Treat.” And what a treat it was! We came up with a little Halloween song to sing as we went door-to-door. We met a man sitting in a wheelchair, connected to his oxygen pump. We said hello to women who were bed bound and on feeding tubes. We greeted person after person whose circumstances would have caused despair in most people, but who instead showered us with joy. One woman was busy crocheting baby blankets for the hospital. One man kept apologizing that he hadn’t realized it was so close to Halloween or he would’ve had some candy to give us! “No,” one of our youngest children said, “We came to give you candy! That’s our present for you today!”
Seeing people in these circumstances might be intimidating to some children. But not to these church kids. I like to think that our intergenerational approach to ministry, almost a necessity in a small church, prepares our kids well for walkers and wheelchairs and people with a few missing teeth. Because on Sunday mornings they are there singing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” right there beside them. These kids are ready to live out their faith in a broken, beautiful world.
But what none of us were prepared for was what it would be like to have Sasha Underfoot along. One woman, buried deep under her bedcovers like she would never come out, this woman who hadn’t cracked a word much less a smile, sat straight up like an 8 year-old when she heard we brought a dog to see her. “Oh, puppy!” she exclaimed. Another man, unable to see through the haze of clouded eyes, reached out his hand to find the dog. We guided his hand to Sasha’s soft, comforting fur. His face relaxed peacefully and he left out a breath of contentment, “Ahhh!” Person after person became like new because of Sasha.
Sometimes God’s love is a Scripture read, a song sung, a child in a silly costume, a piece of candy given, and sometimes, it is the softness of a dog’s fur when everything else in the world seems so hard.
Happy Hallow’s Eve, all. And Ruff or Rrreat!