My joy for today is handing someone in need a bag of food.
On Tuesday mornings, I work at our church and get the opportunity to meet members of our community. I have worked with the food pantry ministry of our church for over a year, which also includes job searching and financial assistance aspects of our ministry. Many weeks, there are five to ten people waiting in the lobby when I arrive at 9:30 am. It is a struggle to get out of the house on time each week and to drop each of my kids off at their proper locations. Many weeks I leave feeling that I have done absolutely nothing useful. On days like this, I have to work hard to see the joy.
Many of the people who come to our church have had their power shut off or are being evicted. The money we can distribute is solely at the mercy of the amount our congregation gives the weekend before. Many weeks there is no money to give, only food, and sometimes very little of that. People come to ask for assistance with their children, their babies, their elderly parents; they are disabled, in physical and emotional pain, lonely, and scared. Oftentimes I can only give an answer that frustrates them: we have no money to give, you aren’t in our service area, your bill is far beyond the amounts we are able distribute, try this or that agency. All I can offer them is prayer and a bag of food.
A bag of food seems like so little when they face such monstrous challenges in life. One of my favorite lines in a movie (“The Family Stone”) is “generosity of spirit.” That is what I try to offer to each person as much as possible, and that is the most painful. I listen, ask questions, and try to really hear the fear and frustration in their voices. The more I hear, the more I want to help, the more I feel helpless. It is a vicious cycle. It seems so incredibly wrong to go home to my lovely house, with my healthy children, and be only mildly affected the rest of the week by their pain. I am still trying to grapple with the best answer as to how I can most help these precious members of my community. It is incredibly painful and hard to reconcile in my soul. If you are reading this and have many years experience in serving others, I am sure you can easily identify with these feelings. Do you have answers?
My joy for today is placing a bag of food in someone’s hands. To be honest, the amount of joy I feel today barely overcomes the pain, guilt, helplessness, frustration, and sadness I feel today. I feel guilty for even having feelings about other’s pain and my miniscule role in their lives. It is probably the epitome of an upper class problem. I do not have the actual problems, instead I have the luxury of having my own feelings about their problems.
But the joy is there, shining through, and visible in their faces as well. The people I met today can have spaghetti for dinner instead of going hungry because of the generosity of others, possibly thanks to you if you attend my church and donate to this ministry. Each person that walks out our doors, thankful for the peanut butter and toilet paper I just gave them, takes a part of my soul with them. Will there be any left for next week? As a woman who was in danger of being evicted reminded me today, thanks be to God that His mercies are new every morning.