Friday, September 23, 2011

+Like Salt to French Fries+

I live to hear the words, "Can you fill a food order, please?"  In my mind, I see myself going down into a lunge.  Left knee touches the ground.   Right arm comes back like I'm starting a lawn mower.  "Yesssss!"
            I run up the stairs, two at a time, to the top floor.  I stand in front of the shelves and fill old grocery bags with pasta, peanut butter, soup, and fruit cocktail.  I can't stop grinning because this makes me happy.

It was almost four years ago.  I was headed to BB&T.  I watched my feet on the sidewalk.  "Step on a crack, break your mother's back."  After awhile, I looked up and instead of being in front of the bank, I was in front of a building that said loving in big letters and furniture in little letters.
            I reckon it had something to do with Isaiah 58:7.  It'd been on my mind for almost two years.  "Share your food with the hungry.  Clothe the naked." The words were a shish kebab skewer that poked me under the ribs every time I heard or read them.
            I'd been praying.  Waiting.  Looking for a burning bush.  All of a sudden, there it was.    But it wasn't burning, and it wasn't a bush.  It was Christian Help, Incorporated, founded in 1975.

Every Tuesday, more often than not, I drive down Grand Street to town.  To Christian Help.  I look through the blue part of my windshield.  "A parking spot right in front would be awesome, God."  Usually it's there.  Especially if my trunk is full.
            I walk in the front door and say, "Howdy," to whoever's at the front desk.  Used to be Glinda, before she had a stroke and went to assisted living.  I always hugged her and whispered into her steel-colored curls, "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" 
            She'd cup one of my cheeks with her cool, dry hand and smile up at me.  "Good to see you, girlie."

I love 'em.  All the ladies.  I'm going on year four of volunteering and they've put in twenty five or more.  I work two to three hours a week.  Some of them are there every day.  They're all in their seventies, at least.  And Spud, who moved here from Jersey, to live with her daughter?  She's ninety something.  Looks like a grey-haired Jack in a deck of cards. 
            There's also Rose and Annie.  Sis and Carol too.  Ethel and Erlene come on Tuesdays, like me.  Glory hallelujah when Ethel brings one of her pound cakes.  Thank you, Jesus when we have a pot luck lunch and Erlene brings her sauerkraut with little, tasty shreds of pork. 
            I love the shining, antique faces of the ladies.  The way their eyes and teeth flash white when I spring through the doorway of the clothes sorting room.  Their smiles say they're as glad to see me as I am to see them. 

I've seen staff come and go in four years.  That's the nature of Americorp Vista, usually paid a pittance, workers.  But Cheryl, the executive director, has been there since before me.  God bless her because running Christian Help requires managing chaos.  Reassessing the greatest need, the greatest good, Monday through Friday, plus the first Saturday of the month.
            Cheryl's radiant.  Maybe she goes to a tanning booth.  Or she could be part Native American.  Just between you and me, I think it's because she loves the Lord.  Moses glowed when he came down from the mountain of God, you know.
            I stopped asking the younger volunteers why they're at Christian Help.  Usually it's because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In this town that means community service--bummer to them, blessing to us.  Now whenever I see them, I just smile real big and say, "Welcome!  We're so glad you're here."
            One time a handsome guy, who filled out his t-shirt sleeves, asked me why I volunteer at Christian Help.  I'd been waiting for this.  For the chance to give the reason for the hope I have.  I had paragraphs prepared, but they evaporated. "'Cause I love Jesus."  My voice sounded tiny.  He looked at me, head tilted.  "Cool."

To me, serving, volunteering, whatever you want to call it, is like that line in the Jerry McGuire movie.  It completes me.  For years, I went to Bible study every Friday morning.  Learned all kinds of neat stuff.  But one day, someone's opinion changed my life.  "Bible study is all well and fine, but sooner or later, you have to start doing what Jesus told you to." 
            I think serving is to life, what salt is to French fries.  I understood that the first time I filled an emergency food order.  It was a religious experience.  Spud's the unofficial queen of the food pantry, but she wasn't there to hear me say, "I'm doing it.  I'm feeding Jesus' sheep."

I sure hope I'll still be driving down Grand Street to town, to Christian Help, for another couple decades.   After that, much as I love to hear, "Can you fill a food order?" or, "Can you help someone with an interview outfit?" what I long to hear is, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  But not yet.  Not until I'm at least as old as Spud.


Sara said...

This was a wonderful uplifting post AND well written. It could have a fiction story because you created your characters so well I could see each of them.

I'm not very religious, but I do so admire those who do what religious leaders teach. I've studied religion and the one thing that is very clear about the teachings of Jesus was the "get up and start doing" part.

Thanks for sharing this today. It's the first post I had a chance to read and I'm pleased it started my day:~)

writingdianet said...

Thank you so much, Sara. I appreciate your kind words:)


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