Christmas time is about the birth of Jesus, but we also give each other presents to celebrate His birth. I often buy Lily gifts, like bones and balls, but this year, Lily gave me a gift I wasn’t expecting.
Lily helps us to connect with people. She’s a conversation starter. We start by asking those we come in contact with if they would like to pet her. The conversation usually goes on from there. Some of the usual questions are, “How old is she?” “What type of dog is she?” and “What does she eat?” But sometimes, people tell us little tidbits about themselves and what they are feeling. If you are a good listener, you can pick up on these hints, such as that they are lonely, sad, feeling hopeless, scared, or other emotions. This gives Lily’s Handler the opportunity to ask some questions, empathize, and perhaps pray with the person.
Lily and I met Millie last year. She was suffering from ovarian cancer, but she was having a good day. After the initial questions were asked and answered, Millie told us about her life and some things about herself. Millie loved animals, so she and Lily really hit it off.
As we continued to visit in the next months, Millie had good and bad days. On the good days, Millie would tell the nurses and staff that Lily was a Deacon at our church (I told her she was a staff member at Good Shepherd), and we talked about her favorite bible verses and her family. On the bad days, not much conversation was held, but Lily would nuzzle her hand and Millie would oblige her with a pet on the head. I would end our visit by praying with Millie and asking God to ease her pain and provide her with comfort and strength.
During this time of visiting Millie, my own dear mother started losing her long battle with Congestive Heart Failure. Lily and I would visit Mom after our visits with others and Millie, and we would chat about Mom’s faith, her favorite hymns, and her favorite Bible verses, among other things.
Mom went to be with her Lord on September 23, 2015; Millie followed the week after. It was a double loss for me. But, I continued to visit the nursing homes and see our regulars. Walking in to the Nursing Home after Mom’s passing was the hardest thing I ever did. But Lily made it easier. After all, I was on a mission.
Lily gave me the momentum to visit people that are suffering, and the ability to grow in compassion for them. Without Lily, I could never do what I do, such as visiting the sick and elderly. Often times, I don’t feel like going out with Lily, but those are some of the best days for visits. Jesus knows what we need, and he puts us in places where we need to be. Because of Lily and her ministry, I was able to provide comfort and compassion to Millie and my own mother when they needed it the most.
Paul tells us, in Philippians 2: 1-5, how to proceed with our Christian duties:
1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, 2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. 5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.
Because of Lily, we have made contact with many people who are suffering and lonely. I find myself now visiting longer with some of our people. They pet Lily and tell me what they are feeling. I listen, and then take the opportunity to pray with them. We leave with smiles and promises to visit again, which I always keep.
Without Lily, I would never have had this experience. God knew what Millie and Mom needed, and he put me and Lily in place to provide some comfort.
This is the gift Lily gave me this Christmas. I look forward to the many more opportunities Lily and I will have to provide compassion and Christian love to others.
What motivates you to follow Jesus’ example to serve others? Please comment below. We would love to hear from you.