sharper focus “Like kings and queens”

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Linda Manhardt, Major

They came in vanloads and waited patiently in our cramped dining room for the others to arrive.

On the first Monday in January, the Training College hosted its first ever Golden Agers Christmas Party. These senior citizens were survivors. They had survived the great flood when typhoon Ondoy leveled their homes and took their loved ones. They are surviving daily, having lived for three years in makeshift houses with up to six other families in a space that was intended for one family. Their faces were rough and lined with the evidence of the harshness of their existence.

We did our best to transform our humble dining room into a place that would be special for the seniors. We pleated and pinned skirting around the cadets’ desks that had been arranged from end to end around the room. We used our best linen, had fresh flowers on the tables, and prepared a program of games and worship for the group.

After several trips we had our 60 seniors from the four training college outreaches, and we were ready to begin.

The menu consisted of what the cadets felt would be the favorite foods of our guests—pancit canton, meatballs, baked chicken with sauce, rice, sautéed veggies, fruit salad and a special drink with chunks of gelatin in it.

The staff and cadets served the seniors, and as we brought them the heaping plates, we were met with words of appreciation.

The game time was hilarious as the women fed the men from baby bottles.  The crowd squealed with laughter.

A cadet led a devotional time with songs and a salvation message, and every one of those wonderful seniors stood up at their table and repeated the sinner’s prayer in their own language. My eyes were not dry as I witnessed this beautiful moment.

Each guest received a gift package containing flip-flops, a housedress or shorts (for the men) and various food items.

Finally, the party was over, and they filed out of the dining room and back into the vans. I went outside to thank them for coming, and one very elderly man took my hand and said in English, “Thank you. Happy New Year.” I could tell that he had been practicing these words because of the awkward way they came from his mouth. His sincerity and moist, grateful eyes as he graciously thanked me touched my heart.

Later, I learned of their comments on the way home. “This is the first time I have been in a beautiful car like this. It even has air conditioning,” and “We were treated like kings and queens.”

There is something good and right and beautiful about treating the poor, the humble and the disadvantaged like “kings and queens.”

It’s a simple thing. To give your best with love and respect brings glory to God. May we never lose sight not only of what we do for others in the name of God but how we do it.

In blessing others—in giving what we can from the heart—we are truly blessed.

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