Gerald's Gift

When I pulled up to Kristi's assisted living facility Gerald was standing on the curb holding the invitation. It was an invitation to our monthly meal and worship service at Freedom Fellowship.

Gerald had wanted to go and had, he thought, made arrangements for the van to come pick him up. But the van had not yet come and Gerald was getting worried and agitated that the van wasn't coming. It was a bit late for the van and in talking with Gerald I couldn't tell, either because of his cognitive disabilities or his tendency to mumble, how confident he was that he'd actually made arrangements with the van. Maybe he'd failed to make those arrangements and the van wasn't coming. (Later I learned that the van was just running late.)

But no matter. I was there to pick up Kristi for the meal and praise service. Gerald could come with us. We went in to inform the nursing staff that Gerald would be coming with me for the night. Gerald then helped me push Kristi to the car and get her wheelchair loaded into the trunk. And then we were off.

Being in an unfamiliar place Gerald wanted me close. So I sat with him during the meal. He wanted to talk about his plans for his birthday party, three months away, and asked if I would come. I said I would. "I'm going to have pizza and fried chicken," Gerald grandly stated.

Afterwards Gerald wanted to sit with Kristi and I for the praise service. We sat on the back row where Kristi likes to sit, further back from the speakers.

During the service Gerald was alternately engaged and discomfited by everything we were doing. He wanted to participate but seemed, at times, scared and unsure of himself. During a time of prayer he asked me to pray for him. I laid hands on him and prayed over him. And then I asked if Gerald would pray for me. He followed my example and laid hands on me and mumbled words of a prayer. I couldn't make out what he was saying. But when he finished he looked up at me with moist eyes, on the edge of tears. Whatever he had said he'd meant it and had been moved by it.

But during communion Gerald seemed scared and hesitant. He didn't want to go down front and take it. Toward the end of the communion time Mary and Deb brought the bread and juice back to us, Kristi being in a wheelchair. Kristi and I took communion but Gerald still seemed unsure of himself and refused.

And then the prayer for the offering came. And Gerald's agitation grew. He knew what was coming--the passing of collection baskets--and he knew he wanted to give but didn't have any money. Gerald leaned over to tell me this with some concern. I reminded Gerald that he didn't have to give any money. As Calvin mentioned in his words and prayer before the offering, even if our pockets our empty we can give of ourselves to God. Don't worry about not putting in any money.

But that exhortation didn't seem to pacify Gerald. So I asked if I could share some of my money with him. No, that wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to have something of his own to give.

The baskets passed in front of Gerald and I. He seemed sad and distraught about what to do. The attendants moved past our row.

And then I saw Gerald clam. A peace seemed to fall over him.

He'd decided on something.

As the baskets passed behind us he turned and solemnly took off his baseball hat.

And then he placed his hat in the collection basket.

The baskets were taken up. The collection was finished. Gerald turned to me, beaming.

"I gave my hat," he said with a huge smile.

I beamed back, with tears in my eyes. "I saw, Gerald, I saw."

He leaned over for a hug.

We hugged. And rejoiced in his gift.

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6 thoughts on “Gerald's Gift”

  1. I struggle giving more than any thing else. I struggle because it always seems I am giving back to myself. So that I have a warm or cool church to go to. So that we have a good sound system and instruments. So that we have coffee, padded pews, and proper media equipment.

  2. Thank you kindly for sharing Gerald's gift with us. It reminds me of something that happened to my grandmother. One Halloween she decided to set out candy in a bowl on her porch with a sign saying PLEASE TAKE ONE, then she settled down behind the curtained window to see what would happen. Some kids followed the instruction and took just one piece, while others took a handful. When the bowl had just been emptied and she was about to go out to refill it she saw a little girl climbing the porch steps. The girl read the sign, looked sadly at the bowl for a minute, then took a piece of candy from her bag and put it into the bowl. My grandma thanked her and gave her a handful of candy... the desire to give is a beautiful thing.

  3. As someone who collects hats (they are nice conversation starters about places I've visited), this was particularly touching.

    Thank you.

  4. When will I learn to not read your blog at work where I frequently end up crying at my desk?

  5. I love Gerald. On one of my first encounters with Gerald he asked me out on a date and then my husband, Tim, walked up and he was very embarrassed but so so sweet. I just told him I was flattered and not angry with him. He is precious. I love that you spent time with him. You are precious.

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