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Kristine Schaffer reached out to me. She wanted to talk to me about connecting with people, about bringing people together in a common cause. Kristine is a passionate volunteer. Spend any amount of time with this woman and her servant’s heart will shine brightly in front of you. The medium of the meeting doesn’t matter. Video, phone, in person, the spirit of Kristine Schaffer shines brightly.

I’ve spent several days working on this piece, wondering exactly what to say about this incredible human being. Part of me deeply wishes that I could tell her, or anyone, more about connecting with others, but I am more of a storyteller than a guru, a collector of other people’s tales not a fountain of great wisdom. Honestly, there is little I could tell anyone about connecting with others that you can’t find out yourself just by living.

So I returned to what I do best, tell the stories of others, of how I see them.

Kristine is on a screen in front of me, in her car. She’s moved around Gaffney, SC searching for a signal so she can connect with me today. It’s a humbling feeling for your meeting to be that important. It’s not me in particular, it’s people. Kristine has spent a lot of her life volunteering to help others, serving others. She’s passionate about it, driven to help others. As she talks I feel a certain kinship with her, the part of me that spent years in a uniform recognizing the spirit of another who understands true service.

She’s a marvelous storyteller, and soon my desk, the computer upon it, and a simple lamp feel more like a hearth. The coffee in my hands is warm, and the laugh and charm of this woman fill my home. The warmth doesn’t dissipate as she shares her stories with me, the ones where life gets hard and tears flow. We all have those stories, we just choose how we deal with them.

In the case of Kristine, there is a deep love. It’s a love born out of her faith. This isn’t the kind of faith paid lip service and accompanied by an attendance record of Bible studies and church services. Quite the opposite, this is a love for your fellow human begins that is at the core of what anyone who believes in a divine power holds dear. It’s evident in her volunteering, in the drive she has to help and serve others.

Kristine will tell you she’s giving back. Her faith has carried her through the hardest times in life, down roads we would all be tested on. For Kristine, her service is about paying back that incredible survival, that amazing faith calls her to serve for others. I’ve heard similar from people before, but there is a truth to her words. I believe her completely.

Faith is often referred to as believing in something you can’t see. And yet I can see the faith in Kristine Schaffer. There is an ease, a comfort in her that says she knows the world can hurt her, but she is not afraid. She knows she will get by, and others need her help. I don’t know about her faith because she tells me, I can see it in her smile, in the turn of her head, and in the look in her eyes when she tells me about kids suffering from cancer.

Kristine’s Joy for Kids is her ministry for children battling cancer and their families. She seeks to serve through joy, through making life better for these children. I don’t care what faith tradition you come from, there is something powerful in bringing joy to children facing their mortality. It’s often said that childhood ends when you know you’re going to die. Kristine, this joyous warrior, brings smiles where there are cries, she loves where others fear. My heart lifts as we talk. You can’t help but be lifted.

As we talk, Kristine shares her favorite verse with me. Not in the way you or I would toss out a well-rehearsed quote, but as though the words were indelibly etched upon her soul, to always reflect in her gaze and her smile, in her every action.

John 15:11

“I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

As our time ends I find myself lost in thought. I think about Kristine’s service for children, her work, and the sadness she finds in organizations working separately, and, at times, against each other. I have learned much from my new friend, about smiles, joy, faith, and serving, but this is something more. Images of children battling cancer, of people struggling with depression and suicide (my chosen calling), pour through my mind’s eye.

And it hits me that I lose focus on the subject, instead focusing on how right my way is. We all do. Too often our politics, our religion, our philosophies dominate the debate. More time is spent on debating whose way is better than helping the people we’re trying to serve. Our need to be right has consequences, and we forget that.

As Kristine would observe, it’s about the kids.

It’s a lesson that’s not easy to swallow, but one I am grateful for. Now I have to find a way to pay it back…

(To learn more about Kristine’s Joy for Kids, take a look here.)

Social distance and the isolation that accompanies it can be hard for many, especially when you combine it with the stress of our current situation. Please, reach out and connect with people. Share your stories and your time. Use the technology available to stay close to people.

If you want to be a part of this project and share some time and stories with others, or if you just need to connect with someone, reach out to me here.

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