Saturday morning dawned, freezing cold and crazy windy. My youngest son and I rode into the church on an icy cold wind and the place was already buzzing with activity. Even as I entered, I was praying “Lord, show me what You want me to learn today, show me what You see, show me what that means for me. And, please, give me words to write!”
It was a whirlwind of activity as our church worked to supply food for hundreds of people: elderly, families, children. So, I could tell you about that. I could tell you I saw hurting people, and helpful people. I could tell you about the food pantry’s process and how many bellies won’t be empty this Thanksgiving because of it.
I could tell you of the good works I saw all around me.
But I won’t (well, I kinda just did!) I’d rather tell you about healing and friendship. The things that made me tear up, time after time this morning? Shouts of:
“Hi! We missed you!”
“You look like you’re feeling so much better!”
“Well, that’s our Bob for ya! The quick shopper!”
“Hey there! How’s the new job? Was your first week good?”
“Wait a second! I need to give you a Happy Thanksgiving hug, friend!”
Friend. Friendship. Relationship.
Our church, the volunteers, and those who walked through the first snowflakes of the season to shop, are friends. Despite my prayers to the contrary, I am still not sure I have the right words to tell you what I saw. There was no fear, no judging, no hate, no division. This was community. This is what community looks like.
People were being fed, but it had very little to do with the bags of food. I can only imagine that for many of our guests, their lives hold more than a little bit of chaos. I feel confident in saying that the struggle to feed your family, or to worry about the next meal, can be a stressful state to live in. But once a week, every week, Alpine Chapel presents these families with something different. Respite. Refuge. Consistency. Love. I saw love in action. Love that builds people up. Love that allows children to be taken care of. Love that drives away fear, stereotypes, and lies. Love that feeds communities. And I met Ernesto.
I met Ernesto after the tasks I’d been given had wound down. The morning had faded to early afternoon. Ernesto and his cousins were coloring at a table and I leaned in to see what was going on. I can be utterly socially awkward with adults. Fairly close to an introvert. Put kids in front of me, and the unease fades immediately. We talked. They showed me their projects. The youngest girl held up a foam square with a cross and a heart glued haphazardly to one side.
I pointed and asked what the cross was “Jesús!”
I smiled at the eldest of the bunch. He showed me his craft. He said “that’s my favorite name, but it’s not my name..” The artwork said, Tilly. I asked his real name “Ernesto” I smiled. We talked a while more. All the cousins and myself. Of nothing really – Pokemon, school, birthdays. Normal stuff.
A mom called to them in a rapid Spanish, that I didn’t understand. The kids gathered their stuff and quickly began to leave. I felt, oddly, bereft. Not as one who had acted as some sort of benevolent saint, bestowing food upon society’s downtrodden. Nope. Sad. Like a gal whose new friends left without her. Relationships. Friendship. Community.
This is how we heal the world, guys, in case you ever wondered. We lose the labels and the fear and we just begin the process of caring for one another.
At the doors, he turned back. He smiled and called out, “Will you be here next week? I hope so. I usually am. Bye!” “Bye, Ernesto!”
I had prayed, “Show me what You want me to learn today, show me what You see, show me what that means for me.” Through Ernesto, He answered “Just show up. Give love. Feed My people.”
I am so thankful for the Alpine Chapel food pantry and The Shine Project, for meeting needs across Lake Country this season – nourishment and love!