I like to take Duncan to the bus stop. I call it, “Duncan’s bus stop ministry.” He’s a missional dog. Seriously.
It started a few years ago when my kids were still in elementary school. I’d walk with them to the bus stop where thirty kids and their parents were gathered, and we’d take Duncan.
Duncan became quite popular. Kids would walk up to him, talk to him, pet him on the head, give him sticks. He seemed to know what to do. He’d wag his tail for some. He’d chew their sticks. He was very quiet and still if a bunch of kids gathered around him. He passively received their affection. Sometime, a child would be so obviously sad, but they’d work their way over to Duncan. And sometimes, Duncan would just stand next to them. They’d pet him and he’d look at them, and you could see their spirits lift. I remember one very cold morning (a rarity in North Florida). A little girl hands were so cold she just started crying and looking at her hands. With a little encouragement, she put her hands into his fur under his neck. You could see her relief. Many times, we’d stand beside the line as the kids filed on to the bus. They would reach out a hand and touch the dog and tell him good-bye.
I don’t remember when I started to recognize that what Duncan was doing was ministry. Ministry, you know, is mainly about service – connecting with people with the love, grace, and power of God. Don’t get me wrong, here. I don’t think Duncan is a professing Christian. He’s a dog. But with all of creation, Duncan brings glory to God. And God works through our big-eyed Walker/Yellow Lab ball of fur to bless the world.
Duncan helps me connect with people, too. While we were there mainly for the kids, I’d meet parents, too. Duncan has always been a natural conversation catalyst. As a result of those initial conversations about the dog, I learned some names, discovered some stories, built some relationships, and entered into some friendships. I was given the privilege of hearing stories, learning needs, sometimes offering counsel, and even praying for situations. And it has helped me be a better neighbor – more informed and more connected.
My youngest is now in Middle School. I don’t have to make the bus stop anymore. But Duncan still needs to go out and I still need to connect with people, and we still need to live out this calling to meet needs with God’s love, grace, and power. And the kids in our neighborhood and their parents are still going to the bus stop. So Duncan and I are still going, too. Not every morning. Once or twice a week. I’m very open about it being Duncan’s bus stop ministry. People humor me.
So we went this morning and we were a little late. The kids were all on the bus when we arrived, but as the parents began leaving, I was able to say hi, to reconnect with Dina and Jessica, and I got to meet Tom again. We talked about football. And I look forward to seeing Tom again. He’s relatively new in the neighborhood, I think. And I learned something about him. He told me he has three big dogs to walk. I silently prayed for Tom, that this is a good place for him and his family.
And I probably would have missed that opportunity if it weren’t for Duncan.
So, how can you work blessing neighbors into your life?