CCC Newsletter Shares 'Heart Friend' Story by Cal-Nev UM Pastor

February 27, 2009

The California Council of Churches included a story by a pastor in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, in its February e-newsletter. The mailing went to more than 2,000 members and congregations, for an estimated readership of 200,000 nationwide.


CCC Director of Public Policy Elizabeth Sholes shared the story, by the Rev. Wanda Windsor of Evergreen UMC in Fort Bragg, California, which was included in the church's February 15 bulletin.


Sholes wrote, "The state budget is finally done through 2010. It's awful [and] hurts many people, especially those in need, but this is not about that budget. Instead, I want to share a story with you that shines light on love and our capacity, even in difficulty, to find hope.


"Last weekend I was in Ft. Bragg on the coast of northern California. When there I often go to Evergreen United Methodist Church, a lovely little place painted white with appropriate dark green trim. I go back because when you walk in the door, love immediately surrounds you. It is a place of warmth, real fellowship, and complete understanding of God's care. Evergreen does not know a stranger - you are immediately taken in." 


She went on to share Windsor's "Heart Friend Story," from the pastor's own life:


"About nine or 10 years ago, before Alicia lived at our house most of the time but was nearly always with us on weekends, we called her our Saturday Girl, and we did wonderful Saturday things, like staring into tide pools at starfish, and going fishing, and playing Pooh Sticks at the bridge by the creek, and climbing trees and reading stories and coloring and making cookies and going to the rock store. One Saturday we were putting bird seed into all the feeders around the yard and Alicia turned to me and said, 'We're Heart Friends, aren't we? You are my very first Heart Friend!'


"'Yes, we are,' I agreed, surprised and enchanted by the idea and the relationship.


"'That's the best kind, isn't it?' she asked.


"'You bet!' I agreed again.


"'Because Heart Friends take care of each other.'


"'They certainly do,' I said.


"'And Heart Friends always help you when you need them.'


"'They do,' I agreed, 'and you can always tell a Heart Friend the truth about when you need help, too, and they will do their best to come right away to help you.'


"'Or if your mom needs help you can tell Heart Friends, too.' (This was very important to Alicia because her mama is seriously developmentally disabled – a retarded adult – and schizophrenic, and a lot of the responsibility for looking after her mother's needs has always fallen on Alicia, a very big burden for a very small girl.)


"'Yes, you can tell Heart Friends anything at all,' I said. 'Because you can trust a Heart Friend to love you no matter what.'


"'Because Heart Friends are forever friends, aren't they?'


"'Yes!' I said. 'Because Heart Friends are forever friends.'


"I have been thinking about Heart Friends ever since. What did Jesus ask us to do, really, besides be Heart Friends with all of God's children and, indeed, all of God's creation? I don't know how Alicia understood and named a concept so central to all that defines what we are meant to be and do in this world, as Followers of the Way, as Believers in the Law of Love taught by the Prince of Peace, but she did … and that is right because just as Jesus said, a little child shall lead us."


Sholes wrote that the story is of "a little girl and a wise woman find[ing] the essential good that is the core of our faith."


"In times of trial such as these," she concluded, "we can remember to give and receive the care of being a Heart Friend to those around us."