I had an interesting experience last week.
I went to visit an incredible ministry at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville. Once a week, they provide a free meal, open to anyone in our community who might need it. They serve people food, have clothing and household items for them to select from, have a service to minister to their spiritual needs, and other practical help. It is an amazing outreach.
So – the director of this ministry invited me to come over and announce the Beauty Night Outreach that our church is doing in a couple weeks. We wanted to let the women there know about this opportunity to come and be pampered.
So, I drove over to the church and started to walk in the building, when I noticed red signs all over the doors. They stated that the Friend’s Dinner was canceled for the evening. Apparently there was something else going on in the building that night.
But, of course, they were not turning away these people empty handed. Inside the doors were racks and racks of baked goods, pizzas, and lots of other food items for people to take home and make dinner for themselves. Again, I was so impressed with their resources.
As I was walking through the doors, one of the women who works there was walking out. As she passed me, she gently put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Help yourself, sweetheart.”
It took me by surprise, and I started to explain myself, but I couldn’t quite get the words out. I quickly turned around and made it back to my car before the tears began to flow. In that moment, I felt what it would be like to really be in that position. Embarrassed. Humbled. Grateful.
I thought about the women in my community who were standing in front of an empty refrigerator at that very moment thinking, “What am I going to do?” I imagined every father lovingly looking at his children, and yet realizing that he didn’t have any food to put on the table that night.
And I realized that it could be me. At any moment. There was nothing different between them and me. I didn’t look any different to that generous worker than any of the hundreds of women who walked through those doors every week.
And as I placed myself in that position, I realized the incredible bravery it takes to walk into those doors and say, “I need help.” How difficult it must be to let someone else feed you. The amazing strength it takes to put your kids well being before your need to shield your pride.
I realized what an incredible gift that woman had just given me. She didn’t make any assumptions about me. She didn’t size me up and try and determine if I looked “needy” enough. She didn’t judge my appearance or intentions. She was loving, and gracious, and not the least bit condescending or superior.
What an amazing privilege it is to be the body of Christ. What an incredible mandate we have to feed His sheep. Literally, feed them. I love that when people, all around the world are cold and hungry and hurting, there are thousands upon thousands of believers, offering a cup of cold water in HIS name. Without judgment, desperately trying to restore dignity and worth, generously saying, “Help yourself, sweetheart.” Truly humbling.
They say that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes to try and understand what they are going through. I didn’t need a mile… I just needed a minute.