The morning began quite early after a late night buzzer beater thriller annual Thanksgiving tournament and a mountain of dirty dishes from the busy day Wednesday at the store. Once I arrived at the store there began a steady routine of chopping, measuring, and mixing until the five pans of chicken and dressing were ready.
We were only expecting about twenty total people this year for our annual community dinner and planned to serve the traditional chicken and dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, bread, dessert, and tea. Publicity had begun later than normal as we were anticipating the arrival of Baby Noel in Philly and uncertain as to when we would hit the highway heading North.
However, I was blessed beyond measure as the morning unfolded once diners began to arrive. The meal has been open the past few years to individuals who didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or were in need of a good hot meal. We had a few of both this year.
But it was “the extras” that showed up that deeply touched my heart and reminded me why I do what I do. I’m sad there was not a picture taken for my first surprise guests but prayerfully I can paint a picture for you to know them too.
I met Lou and a Donna a couple years ago before our bimonthly food distribution started. They were in hard times, without work, and in need of food. I could tell how hard it was for him to ask. I made the necessary call and let Lou know there would be three food boxes left on the porch around 9pm. His would be marked “2” indicating the number of people the box fed and distinguishing it from other family’s boxes left.
From that moment forward Lou always identified himself as “you know Donna and Lou box number 2”. Over the course of the next year I saw him sporadically. Once he stopped by for prayer before a job interview. He found a job and I noticed a shift in the couple. The next time they stopped by it was for breakfast to dine in, they lingered and mingled as a part of the community. Not only were hard times easier but they were giving back to others with a heart of thanksgiving but also digging deep in their pocket to donate at the store for someone else in need.
So when they showed up Thursday with no reservation, I was ready to feed them and happy to see the two. But they came for a different reason. JUST TO SAY THANK YOU AND SLIP ME A TWENTY to help with the feeding of others. That’s when I remembered why I do what I do: BECAUSE IT AFFORDS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE REAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS. Lord, thank you for the difference you’ve made in the lives of my friends and thank you for allowing me to be a small part.
My next brave guests were Suzanna and William. They had eaten with me on Wednesday and ordered a pound of homemade pimento cheese to pick up Thursday. So I assumed that’s why they were there Thursday...for the pickup. But no, their Thanksgiving meal plans had changed and she wondered if it was too late to join us. And then I realized another reason I do what I do: SO I CAN WELCOME IN THOSE WHO NEED A PLACE TO JOIN. Everyone is hard wired by God for community. When it doesn’t happen, we find ourselves in isolation and lonely. Meet Suzanna and William:)
My final brave guest was my friend Roger, known by so many as Rolo. Roger has greeted me early every weekday for the past three years for his scrambled egg sandwich and can Sundrop. Well, Roger’s best friend, roommate, and brother Randy passed away from cancer this week. We had been receiving daily reports of younger brother’s decline for the past three weeks. We knew it was coming but who is ever ready? Roger had been invited to eat for days but I didn’t expect to see him in his grief and new normal of aloneness. Yet, there he was on my porch interacting with my family and others. And then, when I didn’t think my heart could hold any more joy, I realized another reason I do what I do: IT IS RICHLY REWARDING TO OFFER OR BE THE SAFE PLACE PEOPLE LAND WHEN THEY ARE HURTING OR LONELY. Meet Roger or Rolo:)
I cant end this post without thanking my new friend Edgar for his bravery to keep returning to the store and asking permission to play regularly. His bravery in sharing his spirit and gifts with the store has literally given me a fresh vision for ministry! Meet Edgar and his wonderful wife Wendy:)
I must end this brave story by acknowledging I take no credit for the blessings I receive daily and especially on Thanksgiving Day. I have lived many years of wayward living where my life looked far different from a righteous saint of a God but He saw fit to keep wooing me back to Him. He has been redeeming and restoring all those wayward years. As I’ve trusted Him, He has afforded me opportunity after opportunity to experience His goodness, mercy, and love. AND THAT IS REALLY WHY I DO WHAT I DO. It just happens to take place at our little country store. Hallelujah! And Happy Thanksgiving. How can you be brave today? Brave to ask for the help you need or brave to be the help someone else needs.