Pregnancy Help Appreciation Week. For one week out of 52, all of us in the pregnancy help community pause to say, “Thank you for a job well done.” We try to do this every week of the year of course, but this week is unique. Special. And, needing extra emphasis.
Because, as we go about our varying roles, it is easy to get caught up in the weeds of today’s tasks, tomorrow’s schedule and the reports due at the end of the month. When those who are hurting come in our doors, we don’t have time to reflect on the impact we have—we’ve got someone in front of us desperate for our full attention.
For a moment, however, let’s step back and peruse the big picture. In this big picture, it is likely that each one of us reading this column had something to do with a life being saved or changed in a way we cannot imagine.
“No, Kirk, I just greet people in the reception area,” one might tell me. “That’s hardly life-changing work.” Another would add, “I’m just an administrator,” or, “I just help with the banquet each year.”
“Just.” Too often, it is what we tell ourselves. We wonder quietly whether what we do makes a difference.
Even those who sit across from clients and patients facing unimaginable crises and life decisions ask if anyone hears, if anyone is changed.
It’s interesting because there are many in the pregnancy help community who can point to a moment when someone specifically said, “I wouldn’t have my baby if it wasn’t for you,” or, “What you said that day changed my life.” And yet, they still wonder if it is true that they changed a life.
We constantly battle the idea of whether we are making a difference. It could be because of the enemy, or because of our own self-doubt. But the battle is real. As a result, we’re often unable to see even a small portion of the size and scope of what is accomplished in our ministries.
We hear it in ourselves when we say, “just,” as in the examples above. And when we are discouraged, we often tell ourselves our effort is mostly fruitless.
As a non-theologian, I can’t share great insights on what the coming kingdom of heaven will be like. But I wonder sometimes if there is a special place for those who question their own influence yet keep going. Also in this special place may be those who stick it out, even when discouragement hits time and again.
I wonder what it will be like if God shuffles all of those who never saw the fruit of their labors into this place, with doors closed for a few minutes. Next, the discouraged look at each other and say, “Well, at least we’re here.” There are a few muffled chuckles, and smiles.
Then, an outside door opens, and a young woman walks through, with tears of joy. She points at one of the perennially discouraged and says, “You. You changed me when you smiled and thanked me for coming in that day. You were the first person in years to treat me with grace and honor. I knew that if someone like you cared about someone like me, I could go through with my pregnancy.”
A child follows through the door, smiling and laughing. Many in the room congratulate the one person being thanked. Tears flow down her face, tears of surprise and awe. There are no tears of sorrow, not in this place. No anymore.
As the commotion settles, the young woman who first came in the door looks around. “You don’t know yet, do you?” she says to all in the room.
Questioning looks. Furrowed brows.
She laughs. “No, you don’t! But you will. Oh, you will!” There is excitement on her face. Like a child on Christmas morning.
She continues. “There are more like me. Those you never knew about! All those you never thought heard you, who listened to you but never said a word. Those you prayed for, agonized over."
Anticipation fills the room. The door opens again. Another woman walks through, pointing to another in this special place.
But before anyone can greet her, suddenly hundreds of doors appear, opening to a throng of people beyond our imagination. The word “multitude” takes on new meaning. All around the room there is embracing, laughter, thanksgiving, and...joy. We see little children, moms, dads, grandparents and yes, even great-grandparents.
Those discouraged who were once alone in the room don’t even know all the names, because they’ve never met most of those coming to greet them. Conversations flow, like the elderly woman who says, “You spoke to my daughter and gave me a son-in-law who would help her look out for me as I grew older. And here, a wonderful grandchild—and these four great-grandchildren. All because of a few moments when you talked with her.”
Friends, if we begin to dwell on discouragement, let’s remember something: We don’t know.
We don’t know what God might do with that one word of encouragement we give at the end of a long day.
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We don’t know what might happen when we willingly offer a joyful greeting—even if we are hurting—when someone comes in our door.
We don’t know how the simple act of keeping files, statistics, and accounting in order can pave the way for more effective and powerful interactions with those who need us.
We don’t know the impact of clean rooms, carefully-folded baby items, or a well-swept front walk.
We don’t know what happened after the time we had a kind word for a co-worker which kept her in the fight another day and many more years after that.
We don’t know.
What I do know is that today, during Pregnancy Help Appreciation Week, I’m thankful for all who get up each morning determined to serve, determined to reach out and determined to make a difference even when they cannot readily see the results.
This isn’t “just” something we do. It’s a calling. And one day, we’ll see our fruit in its many flavors and colors. I’m not sure what this looks like, but I can’t wait.