There are two types of people in this world—those who keep the front of their fridge clean and organized, and those with an obnoxious amount of photos and little-kid drawings and reminders cluttering the front, both sides, and maybe even a bit of the back.
I—most certainly—belong to the latter group. I like to think it came with the genes.
As a kid, I remember staring at my grandma and grandpa Berkey’s fridge in child-like wonder. It was and still is an array of funky magnets and family photos, Bible verses and comics they found particularly funny. I’m sure every child in my family has completely rearranged the bottom half of grandma’s fridge at least once, but I’m not sure it bothers her all that much.
On its best day, that fridge is the definition of controlled chaos. Most of the time, though, it feels like a kind of Where’s Waldo collage of faces.
Growing up, grandma and grandpa’s picture was always front and center. For the majority of my childhood, it was a single moment captured of them on the very worn, very loved gray swing that hung near the merry-go-round and trampoline. It was one of those mid-laughter shots, the kind that brings tears to my eyes these days as I remember the sound of my grandpa’s voice, the echo of his laughter. For most of my little-kid days, this was the picture that came to mind when I thought of my grandparents and their home—the perfect description of the life they chose to build together.
Side note: Yes, my grandparent’s house has a merry-go-round and a trampoline with no safety net. My childhood was indeed incredibly magical.
Surrounding their picture was, of course, shots of the rest of the family—kids and grandkids and great grandkids. But mixed in among the faces I find familiar, are pictures of people I don’t know at all. They are people who call my grandparents by their preferred names—grandma and grandpa. Not related in the slightest, yet here, they had found a kind of family and home.
As a kid, I remember looking at their faces and listening to my grandma tell me their names and stories.
This one a missionary.
This one an exchange student.
This one an old church friend.
This one the family of grandpa’s old coworker.
To be completely honest, as a child I was pretty territorial.
My family was mine.
My best friend was mine.
My grandparents—you guessed it—were mine.
Praise the good Lord that your girl has really grown over the last 26 years. But little-kid Katherine didn’t love the fact that these people got to call my grandparents grandma and grandpa, and I think I used to look at their fridge with a kind of scowl—like I was toddler having a pity party about having to share my toys.
A few years ago, though, my brother and I were eating dinner at my grandparent’s house, just a couple of months before my grandpa took a turn for the worse. It would be one of the last meals shared around that table when my grandpa was fully engaged—telling terrible dad jokes and recounting stories from their history.
That night, they again told us the many names and stories of people on the fridge. Person after person, each had a story, and they remembered every one. Each was significant. Each held such deep value. Each was incredibly loved and faithfully prayed for.
And I began to feel something new take up space in my heart—pushing out that old tyrant called territory.
I felt gratitude for their overwhelming, outrageous generosity.
As my grandparents told me stories about their friends on the fridge, I began to remember other stories—the ones my dad had told me about his parents. I remembered how my grandpa would often give my dad money and tell him to slip it into a certain person’s car while they were in the church. I remembered the stories of my aunt and uncle and dad’s friends who found refuge and love and good food at my grandparent’s house. I remembered the amount of elderly people they drove to and from doctor appointments. I remembered the years of driving teenagers to youth group and back home on Wednesday nights.
My 88-year-old grandma recently lamented about how her poor eyesight and mobility is keeping her from sending small devotionals to missionaries serving across the world. My dear grandma, this warrior, has been sending these devotionals for 50 years.
50 years of paying the bill to mail devotionals to men and women and families across the globe. 50 years of taking time to write notes of encouragement. 50 years of faithfulness.
My grandparents have taught me something I’ve desperately needed to learn—selfless, overwhelming, outrageous generosity. They’ve taught me to live with open hands. Nothing is mine. Nothing is beyond giving.
These days, their fridge seems a little more empty than what I remember as a kid, but it’s still crazy full. The faces of family—blood and adopted—fill the front and both sides, reminding us all to choose generosity first.
I’m no where near their level of open handed, but someday, I desperately hope for a fridge like theirs—full and a little chaotic, the mark of family and friendship and kindness. Step by step, I’d like to think I’m on the right track, following that generous couple in the photo together on the swing—the one on the fridge.