Hat #1: Two weeks ago when the interns at Genesis held the Fall Festival for the residents (cookout, crafts, movie), one of my kids (11 years old) gave me a little card that he must have had for a while due to the lack of crispness and newness, with wrinkles probably from pants pockets or a backpack. It had Alvin and the Chipmunks on it with the words, “VIB: Very Important Birthday.” He said to me, “I’m pretty sure it’s not your birthday so just pretend that’s a P,” as he pointed at the letter B. He continued, “You’re a VIP!” I responded in shock and said, “For me?” He nodded and smiled. And before I could give him a hug or even a high five, he had turned away and “frolicked” back to his recliner where he was going to watch the movie. (Side note: he tends to exaggerate his movements if he’s excited or happy. For example, falling dramatically to the ground if we’re about to sit down or doing the windmill motion with his arms if he’s running outside.) I felt really good inside after he gave me that card. At that moment, I knew there was a positive relationship there. I knew I had ministered to him.
Hat #2: Last week at the same Fall Festival at Genesis when talking to the mom I’m working with, we were catching up about the progress of her future housing situation. Her eyes were full of gratitude, her smile, genuine. She said, “I thank you so much for your prayers.” She went on to say how God is giving her a great opportunity to move into an affordable house that was beyond what she imagined and thought was possible. Again, I felt good inside after hearing her thank me for praying for her and her family, specifically finding a home. I knew I had ministered to her.
The way I had ministered to the boy was by making up obstacle courses for him, cheering him on in the Mario Kart Wii game (and sometimes helping him drive), and letting him share his favorite books with me. The hat I consistently wore with him was my ball cap, resembling youthfulness and activity, more actions than words. The way I had ministered to the mom was mainly by listening, asking questions, and sharing relative experiences. The hat I consistently wore with her was my knitted hat, resembling slight openness and vulnerability, its’ warmth and comfort.
In Romans 12:3-8, Paul writes that each individual is really a part of a whole. Like a body has many parts, and those parts do different things, such is the same for people. We each have different gifts. This passage signifies to me that since we have different gifts and offer different things, we, therefore, respond in different ways. So, being able to wear different hats is important. I cannot sport the same hat for all of the residents at Genesis.
Now, all of that is nice and dandy. But I believe a deeper critical incident emerges not in what has happened, but what is to happen. Now that I have established particular hats with these two people, am I allowed to change hats? If so, how do I know when it is appropriate to change hats?
I cannot answer those questions right now. But what I can do is remember that people have different needs, much like coaching. A good coach is able to teach and communicate to his or her players in ways that are most suitable or well-received by that individual. Maybe ministering to people is quite similar to coaching. My plan is to continue to focus first and foremost on building a sound foundation in the relationship. Through intentional prayer and awareness, I believe I will be led to know which hat to wear in the foundation process. Furthermore and still through intentional prayer and awareness, I believe God will continue to lead me in knowing if and when I need to change hats. For now, I am grateful for my “head pieces” and look forward to the new ones to come.