An email request asked Lakes Area Writers Alliance members to volunteer for a four-hour shift in a non-profit booth at the county fair. My irritations added up. The group held meetings, inconveniently, on Saturday mornings, and this request also involved weekends. A four-hour shift seemed like a long, boring stretch of time. All of my reasons not to participate felt squelched by a “God-nudge,” to use my husband’s description of a gut feeling that God wants you to do something. I preferred to volunteer for a two-hour shift, but four hours in a row? Really?! How much could I say about group meetings that I rarely attended?
That “God-nudge” prompted me to sign up for the last Saturday morning of the fair. Yes, I volunteered for the day I didn’t want to go, for the job I didn’t want to do, and for a stretch of time I thought seemed too long. But I did it anyway, begrudgingly out of obedience God.
Our writer’s alliance event coordinator had thoroughly prepared the displays. Two rectangular tables included an obligatory candy bowl, that attracted kids and other sweet-seekers. A raffle jar offered a prize basket of books written by members of our writers’ alliance—my memoir included. Our group had self-published some members’ short stories in a collection entitled The Storyville Project. Copies were stacked and available for sale. Displayed in racks, stacks, and fanned arrangements, brochures and bookmarks spread across the table tops.
Volunteers had permission to sell their own books, so I spent the first minutes placing my books on easels. As I set up my sales display, I chatted with the woman in the neighboring booth. Her story tumbled out quickly: she was widowed three months prior, after taking care of her ill husband while he was on hospice. Confined to a hospital bed in the living room, her husband needed full-time care, so she had slept on the couch, ready to jump up and help him 24/7.
Her tears flowed as she spoke of her grief. I tried to reassure her about the grief processing she had already accomplished, even though nothing felt normal to her yet. Not surprisingly, the fatigue she accumulated as a caretaker now compounded her grief. We spoke of God’s healing and comfort. I gave her the GriefShare website, so that she could sign up for daily emails and check out this fall’s grief groups. Later, a woman walked by the booth dressed in a memorial t-shirt that displayed several family members’ names and dates of death. We also discussed death and grief, and I gave her the same resources and information.
My entire booth shift turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and the four hours passed quickly. Several teenagers approached the booth, some reluctantly as their supportive parents asked questions on their teen’s behalf. Identifying these shy teenagers, I started conversations about their favorite genres and encouraged them to continue writing. Hoping that the teens would be challenged and validated by submitting a story, I asked each one to contribute to the next edition of The Storyville Project. One teenager described working on projects with her sister who created anime drawings for her stories. As I marveled at their talents, I encouraged them to keep collaborating.
I enjoyed giving booth visitors information about our Lakes Area Writers Alliance. Not all conversations related to writing as I talked with kids, parents, and families. Gideons International hosted a nearby booth where they gave out New Testament Bibles. Unlike the plain covers I remember from decades ago, the new Bible came in colorful covers: designs, graphics, and even camouflage. I engaged a few kids in conversation as they walked by with their pocket-sized gifts.
A woman I knew from my church did not know that I wrote books, and I did not know that she maintained our church library. Another God-nudge led me to donate a copy of my memoir and the sequel to the library. One young woman looked strangely familiar, but the different hair color confused me—until she looked into my eyes. Then I recognized my daughter’s friend and called out her name. She walked straight toward me; we hugged and took a selfie. I sent it to my daughter, who had not seen this friend in two years. I enjoyed conversations with people I knew, people I didn’t know, and even sold two books. For an extrovert like me, starved of people and conversations after a long COVID drought, the four hours provided lots of fun interactions.
Afterward, I thought about my much-needed attitude rearrangement. I had signed up for my shift out of reluctant obedience to the “God-nudge,” or God’s prompting. That reluctance started to change when I recognized God’s divine appointments. Within minutes of my arrival, God arranged one-on-one time to speak with the grieving widow in the neighboring booth. God blessed my volunteer shift with meaningful conversations with kids, families, grieving people, writers, and friends. Once my selfishness got out of the way, God changed my attitude to willing, even joyful, obedience.
Lord God, Forgive my reluctant and frustrated attitude toward obeying your prompting, or those “God-nudges.” Change my heart, dear God, and teach me to be joyful and willing as I obey. In Jesus’ name. Amen.