I did not take this picture. My camera is fine, my computer is not. Minor details.
Last night was my church's annual Thanksgiving dinner. We offer it in addition to our weekly Sunday breakfast for the homeless. We have noticed that our breakfast numbers are climbing. We expected it. We also expected that our numbers would be up slightly for the dinner. Slightly doesn't even begin to be the right word.
Our program will be 18 years old this April. It was started by a woman in our church who wanted to make sure the children in our neighborhood who were on the breakfast program at their schools, got to have something hot on the weekends. The program has changed shape over the years. The kids grew up. Now it is primarily low income and homeless men and women who come for breakfast.
I have been at the helm of this program (off and on) for about 12 years. Despite the sadness of our guest's situations, I love doing it. It brings me great joy to be in the service of others. I can see, without a doubt, that I have made a difference in their lives----even if it's only for a few moments while their stomachs are full and they are out of the elements.
I mentioned in my previous post about something new we were going to try---handing out tickets so folks could only get seconds and not a bottomless plate. I really expected a backlash about that from our guests. They surprised me, as they often do, by not saying one bad thing about it. Many were thankful for the chance to even get seconds. It was a darn good thing we did the tickets, because we'd have run out of food if we hadn't. The number of guests simply floored me! Last year, times were tough, and we served about 200 meals. I planned on food for 200 people. We experienced a Loaves and Fishes meal---we served 356 meals! One Hundered Seventy-Eight men, women and children got in line. We did not reach the end of the line for nearly an hour. Everyone got seconds and we did not run out of food. We served from 4-6pm. One gentleman came running in at 5:45, we were still able to give him Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans and bread. Not the works, but he got seconds!
My congregation made this all possible with financial, time and food donations to this dinner! Some folks even brought their friends to help out. It really makes me proud to know these folks. I only hope that they receive the blessings from the program that I do. Yesterday, I was the lucky one. I got to hand out the tickets, shake hands, give hugs, and visit with those standing in line. My congregation of helpers did all the hard work--serving food and drink, keeping the food coming to the the line, washing dishes, and cleaning up. I tell people that wonder if I get nervous when this dinner comes around every year, that it takes care of itself. It is much like a teenager, as the program will be 18 in the spring. It takes care of itself for the most part. Unfortunately, it will not be graduating and going off to college. The down-trodden have been with us since the beginning of time. With the economy the way it is, people are teetering on the fence between being able to take care of their basic needs, and not. We are following Christ's example by helping those people. What it doesn't say in the Bible, is that we will receive joy by helping those people. Maybe it should---more folks would volunteer.
Think about volunteering this year. It doesn't have to be with the homeless. You don't have to commit to forever---maybe just one time at your child's school, a Habitat for Humanity day, stocking shelves at your local food bank, cleaning up a roadside of trash, the possibilities are endless. I promise that you'll feel better than you have in years. Your spirit will be lifted. Your burdens will feel lighter. You'll smile more. Your heart will be full.