PLEDGE PRINCIPLE V. “Whenever Possible I will give of my time and resources to help those in need.”
Shine and the Gift of Service
Two weeks ago I was given the gift and honor of serving as an escort at Shine 2015. You probably already know what Shine is, but just in case… “Shine is an evening of dinner, dancing, and games for our friends (ages 16 and up) in the community who have developmental, physical or mental disabilities.” To go beyond this description as posted on the Flatirons website, Shine was a massive collection of 1800 guests and an equal number of volunteers coming together and creating an evening of joy, praise and party, and the party was huge.
When I first heard about Shine, I wanted in and I wanted to be an escort. I signed up within 2 hours of the registration website going live and was relegated to the waiting list. That means at least 750 people had registered ahead of me in less than 2 hours. That was my first indication that this event was going to be huge, so I volunteered for other activities. Over the course of the next few weeks, volunteer lists solidified and I was selected as an escort. At the moment I received the news, I was elated and scared at the same time. I have to admit something here. I am scared to death by the idea that at any point in time or at some point in my future as I suffer the cruelty of aging, I might be dependent upon someone other than me. As an escort, I would be assigned to a guest with an unknown disability and a person whose daily tribulations frightened me. This caused me to think how much braver the guests are than me. Very humbling. Nothing to do but lean in and push through.
On the night of Shine I arrived at 5:30 in my poorly fitted, rented tuxedo and headed to the upstairs section of the auditorium and joined all the escorts waiting to be assigned to a guest. The upstairs was almost entirely full with escorts ranging across all age groups (18 or above) and many backgrounds. We were an amazing collection of people. As guests arrived, we were slowly guided downstairs and eventually lined the entry on both sides to cheer on the guests as they arrived and to be assigned based on a split second assessment by a greeter. As I saw the guests arrive my fear began to be replaced with gratitude and joy. I was truly grateful to be part of this massive undertaking and overwhelmed by the expressions of joy by volunteers and the guests. As it turns out, I was one of the last groups of escorts and was not assigned to a guest. Our guidance was to roam the event, especially the dance floor and find ways to get involved and interact. I headed for the dance floor. The band had already begun to perform. I don’t know the name of the band, but they were fantastic. I’ve never seen a white guy cover James Brown tunes so well. Amazing collection of entertainers. While standing on the edge of the dance floor, I found myself next to a woman that was ~40 years old, disfigured, almost completely non-verbal and secured to an electric wheel chair, which by the way had cool controls and a horn that would prove useless amongst the crowd and the sound of the band. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call her Mary. I noticed that Mary was paired with a young lady as her escort, and the escort seemed to have no idea what to do. I leaned over to Mary and asked her if she wanted to dance. While I could not understand Mary’s words, the sound that emanated from her mouth told me… Hell yeh, let’s go and she proceeded to offer me a fist bump. Wow! We were off. Over the course of the next hour, Mary and I spun in circles, we joined a conga line and we rushed the stage where I watched and heard her overwhelming expressions of joy. We were surrounded by guests and volunteers who had transcended the disabilities in the room and were entirely focused on sheer and utter joy. I can’t recount the number of interactions I had during the course of the evening, so I’ll just offer the words of one young man that was part of a group I joined later in the evening after Mary had thoroughly ruled the dance floor. “This is the greatest night of my life”. Again, WOW. How petty were my fears? I am so grateful that Grace saw me through my fear and allowed me to share such a wonderful experience.
My evening at Shine reminded me that we always get more than we give when we have the opportunity to offer ourselves in service. The evening also taught me a new lesson. Service is a gift from God that allows us to experience our relationship with The Lord in a deeper and more profound way than we do during our daily lives. For me, God delivered on his promise in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Thank you Lord for creating a place like Flatirons and thank you to all the people who organized and participated in Shine for the opportunity to serve and grow closer to our Creator.
If this blog entry moves you to investigate serving our community of people with developmental, physical or mental disabilities, check out the Flatirons Circle of Friends Ministry at http://www.flatironschurch.com/circleoffriends/