At breakfast on Sunday, Kamal's mother reminded him that today it was their turn to be greeters at their congregation. Normally, Kamal loved greeting all the members and visitors who entered the building at his Unitarian Universalist congregation. It was fun to go early, be the first to arrive, and set up the greeter's table. Yet, today, he seemed less enthusiastic.
"What's wrong, Kamal?" his mother, Sherri asked.
"I was thinking about Abby. She won't be at the worship service today because she's still in the hospital. I'm going to miss her. This Sunday just won't be the same."
"I understand. It's hard to look forward to today when someone important to you is having a hard time. Would you like to sit this Sunday out? I can greet by myself, or ask someone else to help."
Kamal said, "No. People expect to see me there, so I better do it."
At the greeter's table, Kamal and his mother met with a smile every single person who came through the door. They answered questions from visitors. Kamal told a new little boy about the things he liked to do best at church. Sherri invited the boy's father to the next week's holiday party.
Dr. Reynolds brought a big vase of flowers she had arranged for the altar. Sherri held the door for her. Kamal picked up a flower that had fallen out and gave it to Dr. Reynolds. She asked him to pick a spot to put it back in the vase. "That's perfect, Kamal. I bet you would make a good flower arranger," she said. This made Kamal smile.
Sherri did not have to hold the door for Mr. Andrews. He waved "hello," then pushed the red button beside the automated door which opened for him to roll through in his wheelchair.
Everyone was busy. In the nursery, volunteers made sure there were diapers and wipes to take care of the babies. In the RE rooms, leaders were setting up supplies and snacks for their groups. In the sanctuary, the music director made sure the piano was in tune and a volunteer set up microphones, so everyone would be able to hear the service. Someone was making fresh coffee; they dumped the used coffee grounds and filters in the garden's compost bin.
When Kamal and Sherri sat down in the service, Kamal noticed that the visitors sitting beside them did not have a hymnbook. He offered to share his, so they could sing, too.
During worship, the service leader introduced the time for Sharing of Joys and Concerns. People lined up to light a candle and share important events in their lives. Kamal did not recognize the two women who went first. "This is our new son. We waited a long time for him to arrive from Russia, and it was worth it!" they said. Kamal whispered to his mother "We light candles for both joys and concerns, right? Could I light a candle for Abby?"
Kamal and Sherri approached the altar. Kamal said, into the microphone, "This candle is for my friend, Abby. She is sick and in the hospital, so she couldn't come today. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers." And then he added, "And her family, too, so they don't worry too much." After the last candle, the minister calls for a moment of silence.
After worship, Kamal went to see the new baby. One of the baby's mothers let Kamal hold him, but then the baby began to cry and Kamal handed him back. The mother sang softly to quiet the baby. Then she said, "Kamal, we are sorry to hear about your friend. We hope she can come home from the hospital soon."
"Thanks," Kamal said. "I hope so too!" He realized that other people knew how it feels to have a friend who is sick, and he was glad he had shared. He thought to himself, "Next time, maybe I will have a 'joy' to share, and that will feel nice, too."