There’s nothing very remarkable about Sigsbee Street. It runs for just seven blocks through the near southeast side of Grand Rapids, Mich. Sigsbee School, an elementary school in the Grand Rapids Public School system, is its most notable feature. Aside from the school, most of the street is residential, and most of the homes are older and in generally good repair.
But Sigsbee Street is significant for me because of two interesting encounters I had with it.
The first was from 1975 to 1977 while I was a student at Calvin Theological Seminary. I lived in two different apartments on Sigsbee Street. The rents were affordable and the location was convenient.
During my time living in those apartments, I was focused almost entirely on my education and my future ministry. I had little awareness of my neighbors and their needs. I never got acquainted with anyone living there other than my landlords. After all, I had bigger and better things to be concerned about. In the near future I would be caring for the multiple needs of a whole congregation, I reckoned, so I couldn’t afford to be distracted by what was happening in my temporary neighborhood.
My second encounter with Sigsbee Street was about 40 years later. During retirement, I volunteered to deliver meals to homebound seniors. For several months in 2016, I was assigned an area that included a handful of residents on Sigsbee Street.
Forty years later, things looked very different to me. Life had taught me a lot of lessons during those years. I never achieved my goal of becoming a minister. And after many years of working at more “ordinary” jobs, I was looking for some small way to be a blessing to someone else.
So there I was, driving past my old apartments delivering meals to people who might well have been my neighbors 40 years earlier. I wasn’t transforming anyone’s life—just providing some essential food and trying to deliver a cheerful greeting.
Before the end of 2016, my delivery route was changed and I didn’t go to Sigsbee Street anymore. But the lesson I learned there is still poignant. Apparently God decided delivering a nutritious meal to a neighbor was more important for me than leading a congregation in worship. It was humbling for me to learn that meeting a simple, immediate need might be more urgent than my more ambitious plans.
There may be times for us to dream big, but we should never do so if it means neglecting to do the little things right in front of us. A warm meal, a cup of cold water, a kind word of encouragement, a helping hand: any small deed done for Christ might be just as valuable as something seemingly much bigger.