We had a scavenger hunt of sorts a few months ago when a long time member asked if we in the office knew where she could find a document that her grandfather had written in German and had given to the church. Now, our church was founded in 1900 and all of its documents were written German for about the first third of its history. When a long-time member passes away and I need to look up information in the "big book" in which baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals are recorded, I have to bring out my very small German language skills and try to interpret the writing in the book so I can have this information to use at the funeral. The document that the member was seeking was a copy of our church constitution that had been hand written in German by her grandfather. We looked everywhere that we could imagine the document could be but could not find it. We frantically searched again and again only to come up empty-handed each time we looked. Finally, one day one of our other members was at the church and heard us telling about this hunt and he casually went into our church library and opened the drawer of a desk that sits in a corner that is rarely used. Sitting in that drawer was the document that the other member had been seeking. When we gave it to her, she rejoiced with great joy. It was as if a long lost family member had returned. The document she was seeking was a link to her history. It was the missing jigsaw puzzle piece, without which she could not feel complete.
Today, the member who was searching for the document came to the church again, this time to present to the church a photocopied replica of the original German document. She intends to give the original to the library/museum of our county where it will be stored and kept safe for future generations to see. The replica is bound in a nice notebook and has newly crisp pages to take the place of the very worn pages of the original. I wondered where we should keep this gift to the church and finally decided upon the desk in the church library where we found it in the first place. So, I went into the library and opened the drawer where the original had been found and as I lay the replica in its place I noticed another book, this one also written in German, laying there. It is a German choral book, containing musical lines with German titles, only music and no lyrics. There was also a choral book of Handel's Messiah, missing its cover and looking very worn, dated 1912, perhaps left from an era when the church choir had performed it. Looking further into the desk, I came upon book after book written in the German language, many of them containing liturgy and services for leaders of the church during the era when this congregation held services in German. It was a veritable treasure trove of books from the history of this congregation.
I wondered why had these books simply been left in this desk with no one knowing that they were there. Such books should be in a historical collection somewhere or in a museum or library. Here they are laying on top of one another, their pages yellowing by the day, part of the history of this congregation and town, seemingly serving no purpose but to deteriorate. The books were once very important to people, a link to their German heritage they had brought with them from the Old Country. They had conducted services in German in this church into the 1930s, I have been told, so why shouldn't these books be treated like important links to our congregational past rather than old relics that no longer matter?
It makes me reflect upon life and living and why it is that we often overlook those around us who have a wealth of experience and education. We often toss them aside like old books and put them in a place where we can know they will be safe and then just forget about them. When someone asks about them, we say we know they are some place but we have trouble remembering where. The value of what they know and have experienced is far greater than we can enumerate.
I have the privilege of going to a retirement home once a month to lead a worship service. The residents there are still very lively and love to sing so we sing a few songs (accapella since the lady who used to play the piano got ill and cannot play any longer), say the Lord's Prayer, I read a passage from the Bible and talk about it for maybe three to five minutes, and then I say goodbye until next month. You would think I was a rock star or famous personality. Those who come to the services thank me for coming and tell me they enjoyed it. I go away feeling much happier than before I arrived. I often wish I had the opportunity to sit down and hear the life story of each of these wonderful people. I guess I could do that one day, if I could only make the time.
Valuing those in society who have so much to share with us should be a high priority but many times we, as a society and individuals in it, do not want to be bothered by what is required in order to sit and learn from them. We have to give up something....our time and maybe even our pride, changing our attitude from one who knows all that is required to one who can gain much insight from others who have experiences that we may not have gained in life. We are surrounded by hidden treasures daily but often we overlook them simply because we do not see them as such.
May God help us to have our eyes opened so that we will see who and what is important in life. May God help us to take the time to stop and look and listen to others who may share an insight with us that we would never have any other way besides through our interaction with them. May God help us to consider the great gifts we have in those around us and never neglect the opportunities that are around us daily.