I have volunteered in various ways throughout my life but had never done so at an actual food bank, which is one of the reasons that’s what I ended up signing up for. There were a total of five of us at this specific location, apparently more than usual, so there were plenty of hands to help stock the boxes full of canned and boxed goods.
Here’s how it worked: a person or family, who had already signed up with this particular organization, was allotted three boxes of food every six months, with one “emergency” box within those same six months. There were sheets in front of each “bin” that told the volunteers how many cans of each good a family of one, two, three, four, etc. should receive. The person or family would check in at the front, someone on staff would come to the back room to give us the person’s “ticket” with the number of people and their last name, and then the person or family would drive or walk around to the back where we would hand them their box, or help them load it into the car.
The cans of food consisted of vegetables (a type of bean, corn, potatoes), fruit (fruit cocktail), Spaghettios, Spam, or Beans & Ham. There were jars of peanut butter, uncooked pasta, very few dairy items which could include yogurt or sometimes milk, and some other really random items like hot sauce, cake frosting, pickles, even dog food. There were few toiletry items, as well as diapers.
“We’ve got a walker,” I heard someone say, and immediately envisioned a zombie from Walking Dead (if you’ve never seen the show, that won’t make sense to you) until I realized they were referring to a man who would be carrying his food and walking back home. It had been raining all morning and we quickly began to look for all of the plastic bags we could find. As I packed the bags full of cans, I worried about how heavy these would be for him. There were four bags, full of cans and a gallon of Almond Milk (the last source of dairy left in the fridge). I watched one of the other volunteers hand the man the bags… he did not smile or make eye contact but simply said Thank you. I stood there at the door and watched him walk for quite a ways, stopping every so often to put the bags down on the ground to give his hands a rest. My heart was breaking.
A woman at the organization (who had been volunteering at this particular place for 4 years) mentioned that sometimes you’d see people pull up in nice cars. She warned that it would be easy to judge them and wonder ‘why do you need this when you’re driving a car like that?’ but that it would be important to not judge. It’s not why were were there. We didn’t know that person’s story, and we really didn’t need to know it. And that’s not why I was there. Jesus had not called me to give once I’d deemed the person to truly be ‘in need.’ He instructed me to GIVE. Period.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)
When we cry out to Jesus, He doesn’t weigh or rate the severity of our situation. He doesn’t think, “Well, your situation isn’t that bad. Your neighbor is worse off than you are. You’ll be fine.” When we are in need and cry out to Him, He arrives in great love. No matter how “severe” we may rate our situation to be. And just as Jesus cares for us, He calls for us to care for each other.
I have a dream that we don’t just acknowledge and talk about the needs of this world, but that we take action. I have a dream that we make the time. I have a dream that we continue to give, even when it hurts. I have a dream that we would be brave for the sake of others. I have a dream that we judge no more, and that we give for the mere fact that He calls us to give.
What are you grateful for?
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