Annabel Hartman has mentored me in many ways since I first met her in 1983. She and her late husband, Grover, were members of Center United Methodist Church where Mike served from November, 1983, to June, 1989. She prepared meals periodically throughout my pregnancy with Anna. She attended Sarah's school programs, assuming the role of a grandmother for both children with her interest and love. I appreciated Annabel's spirituality which helped deepen my own walk with God.
When Mike was appointed to a church in Vincennes, June, 1989, I was sad to leave Annabel. We decided to stay in touch writing letters. Annabel, despite her work and involvement with church activities was faithful to answer each letter I wrote. I have a basket containing her letters and cards which I saved through the years. Even after we returned to central Indiana in 1996, we still wrote letters.
One letter, I shared my concern about "non-productive" activity such as driving children various places or participating in church events. I lamented my lack of time to "cultivate my self because of being engulfed by responsibilities to others."
Annabel replied, "We can be perpetually involved in worship while we are also very busy in the world of daily affairs. Can't just being in the company of others who need relationship cultivate the self? Driving kids is productive in that we become the servant. Doing odd jobs at church is productive if we see ourselves as a link in a chain, a part of something bigger than we. Just being is enough for me if in my position of being I am becoming a bigger better person because I am being for someone else, however simple or menial the task or service" (letter dated May 10, 1990)
I prayed with her letter for many days. Through the years her phrase, "If we see ourselves as a link in a chain, a part of something bigger than we" left an imprint in my heart and altered my perspective of everyday tasks. Thinking of myself as a links has brought value to all I do and to each interaction.
I was reminded recently of being a link when I stopped at Walmart after church last Sunday. I volunteered to purchase 24 yards of black fabric for Sarah to use on bulletin boards in her classroom.
"Do you have black fabric?" I asked the employee in the craft department.
"I can't hear you," she replied. Thinking she might be hearing impaired, I repeated my question looking at her directly. She pointed to a row of solid fabric on the top shelf. I reached the bolt and brought it to the cutting table.
"I need 24 yards please."
"What are you doing with 24 yards?"
"My daughter is an art teacher. She prefers fabric rather than paper on her bulletin boards."
"I like art too. When I was in Italy I hired a teacher who taught me to draw and paint. I won an art contest in fourth grade. I did a lot of art through the years. My son is a really good artist. He draws faces that really look like the person. I like art a lot."
She cut with new energy as she turned the bolt over and over until cutting the last inch. She folded the fabric with a big smile placing the pile in my hands.
"Thank you. You're a link to art helping my daughter prepare her room."
She grinned, "I still like art very much."
Now my days are much less hectic. I try to be mindful how I can be a link wherever I go. For example, when I hold the door open for the person behind me entering or exiting a store, I am a link to another's progress. When I affirm or encourage, I am a link to someone's growth. When I care for a friend's child I am a link providing space for growth, pleasure or relaxation. My prayers link me to God in intentional ways for others or myself."
I am so grateful for Annabel's thirty year influence on my life. I treasure the time I spend with her. Even though she is approaching 99 years, she still fills me with wisdom and love.
How are you a link in the path you follow each day?
God I ask you to guide my heart and direct my vision in ways I can be a link for others. The positive energy I receive when I think of myself as a link to others whom I encounter reminds me how Jesus used objects to explain or link us to you. Amen.