Sometimes it’s what’s written on the inside cover that speaks volumes – long before you ever read the book. For my high school graduation, our youth pastor presented me with a devotional book. “That was nice,” I thought, but I was so busy and preoccupied with the usual teenage angst and drama that I never read it. After that, time accelerated as I went on to Bible college, got married, moved to Florida, had three babies and when the youngest was just 9 months old, moved to Sicily for two years with my U.S. Navy sailor husband.
We jumped right into ministry with the American church in a quaint little town at the top of a hill overshadowed by Mt. Etna, and I was soon recruited to help the Italian congregation with music as well. They had no musicians, so I played the piano for their afternoon services, accompanied some of the teens who loved to sing, and gave guitar lessons. Then some new missionaries moved in across the street and a lovely friendship developed as Linda and I began singing for the Italian church’s weekly radio broadcast. How I wish I had a copy of those recording sessions from Pastor Vincenzo’s living room!
Our time in Sicily soon came to an end and my friends presented me with another book – this time an Italian hymn book that I cherish to this day. The kind words written in delicate European penmanship on the inside cover evoked torrents of tears at the time, but warm my heart and conjure up sweet memories of our time together. I can still hear their beautiful, heartfelt singing.
Circumstances and directions changed. We moved – again and again. And then I found myself in what felt like a wasteland to me. Oh, I was surrounded by family and friends, ministry, busy-ness, and lots of snow (2 feet for our first welcome-to-NY storm). But I was lonely. I missed my southern friends. I missed our church. I missed the recording studio in Jacksonville, FL, grieving for all the opportunities and dreams it represented to me as a songwriter.
That’s when the devotional book reappeared.
I had forgotten all about it but there it was, after all those years and moves, sitting at the top of an unpacked box, waiting to comfort and challenge me as I read the words that a young college student and servant of God from Lebanon (by way of Liberia) had written on the inside cover:
People need people and friends need friends,
And we all need love, for a full life depends
Not on vast riches or great acclaim,
Not on success or worldly fame,
But just in knowing that someone cares
And holds us close in their thoughts and prayers.
For only the knowledge that we’re understood
Makes everyday living feel wonderfully good,
And we rob ourselves of life’s greatest need,
When we “lock up our hearts” and fail to heed
The outstretched hand reaching to find
A kindred spirit whose heart and mind
Are lonely and longing to somehow share
Our joys and sorrows, and to make us aware
That life’s completeness and richness depends
On the things we share
with our loved ones and friends.
~ Helen Steiner Rice ~
Let’s save discussion of the devotional book for another time (it’s still my favorite and the impact on my life has been huge) but the point is this: our lives have become a constant whirlwind of activity. We are filled to capacity with things to do – some necessary and worthwhile, others not so much – pressures, obligations, mindless diversions and distractions all competing for our attention and affection. Technology is great and social media has its place (I’m sure thankful for you, Facebook Friend), but let’s not forget that people still need real people and friends still need true and faithful friends. God has already placed the people in our lives, so let’s go out and be that kind of friend to someone today!
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller