Monday, July 29, 2013


"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you." - Deuteronomy 16:17

I don't know why the lady's story touched me so much. Perhaps it was because I had been laid off myself at one point in my life and knew exactly how she felt. Perhaps it was the look in her eyes as she waited in line at the local food pantry. Her eyes looked so much like the lady's eyes in the photo to the right. Uncertain of the future. Concerned for her children. Wondering what tomorrow would bring.
When I volunteer at Ruby's Pantry (the third Saturday of every month here in Waupaca) I perform a wide variety of tasks. But lately I have either broken down used cardboard boxes and thrown them in the recycle bin. Or I help load groceries into people's cars. But this past Saturday I got assigned a different job . . . as if by God Himself.
"Hey, Bob. Bill's not here today. I was wondering if you would mind pre-registering the first-time visitors? That would really help."
I must have looked like a clumsy accountant, trying to juggle all the clipboards, forms and writing utensils as I made my way to the beginning of the line - all while trying to look as "cool" as possible of course, but failing. I love talking with people and the more I talked - and more importantly, listened - the more I was enjoying this new job. And the more I fell in love with the people standing in line.
I started making jokes and picking on some of the people I met. They picked on me right back. We all were becoming good friends. It was great. At one point there must have been nearly a hundred people standing in line . . . waiting.
About two thirds of the way through the line I met Joann. She was in her mid-forties, average height average . . . everything. She was just like everyone else only she wasn't talking. She was just standing there . . . looking lost and out of place.
"Are you new to Ruby's?" I asked?
"Yeah. I just got laid off. My sister told me about this place so here I am. It's my first time here."
I handed her a clipboard and then explained what was going to happen as she went through the building. That seemed to relax her a little. I continued on down the line, handing out more clipboards and more forms as I went. Eventually I returned to collect all of the filled out forms and, now that my job of pre-registering people was nearly complete, I had a little extra time to chat . . . which I did . . . with the lady who wasn't smiling.
Joann was a forklift operator at a local food processing plant. One day she got called into her boss's office and was told "we no longer require your services." She had worked there all her life and and it seemed unreal that she was being escorted to the door. And now, here she was, standing in line to get free food. She was beside herself and didn't know what else to do. But I did.
"May I pray with you?"
And so we prayed, right there in the middle of the parking lot amidst the dozens of people waiting in line. I reached out an arm, she leaned in and we prayed. I prayed for God's provision in her life. That God would provide what she truly needs in her life. That she would be given strength and perseverance to get through the changes in her life and that, through this storm, God would be with her and that He would be glorified.
When we were done praying, we each took a step back and I could see for the first time, the tears in her eyes and the tears she had left behind on my shirt. I think that was the moment I decided to do something.
Over the next few days, God's Holy Spirit was after me, keeping my thoughts focused on something to do for those who suddenly, and for the first time, find themselves out of work. I asked my friends on Facebook what THEY might need if they suddenly found themselves in such a position. My friends provided and I made a list - a list of essentials.
I eagerly look forward to next month's distribution at the food pantry. Perhaps I will see my friend Joann again but honestly I hope not. I hope she will have since found a job and will no longer be in need. But whatever happens, I hope there will be a renewed spirit in this old body. One that will encourage and be eager to be used, to give what I can, whenever I can and in whatever form I can.
We often think of "giving" in terms of food or money. But often, the things needed most in this life can't be found on a shelf or in a pocket. They can only be found in God. Faith, hope, love, trust, prayer. None of these things cost anything but they often can mean . . . everything.
"But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" - 1 John 3:17

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