James 2:8 Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord’s command, “You must love and help your neighbors just as much as you love and take care of yourself.”
He wears a hat. One of those hats I would call a ‘chapeau’ with its flat top and short brim that sits high over blonde waves of hair falling to just the top of his shoulders. The hat is the colour of a grey sky winter morning. He holds out his food tray, eyes meeting mine for a moment as I scoop a spoonful of potatoes beside a chicken thigh dripping in gravy. He nods, murmurs a thank you between full lips, and his ocean blue eyes move from mine to the next person who stands beside me ready to serve.
And I wonder how this 20 something year-old that looks like one who would have the girls flock to him, with guitar in hand, and True Religion jeans, ended up here with an Adidas back pack slung over his shoulder, and wearing knee ripped sweat pants, in a line for food in a place that serves to those who cannot afford their own—this line that on an average evening serves 350 people in this downtown section of my city.
What is his story?
I keep serving. Some eyes connect with mine, others do not. Some smile at me and say thank you, others shake their head no to what I have to offer, and one elderly man ask the young brunette girl beside me for two brownies for dessert instead of the allowed one. With a kind smile she lets him know she can only give him one to make sure there is enough for everyone. He nods slightly to her and moves on and she glances at me with the look I know so well. The glance that says, ‘I really wanted to give him another—all if I could.’
But we can’t give all to one. Instead we give what we can to alleviate hunger to all that come here, a place providing services to alleviate and rehabilitate those in poverty. Ones that may have been considered middle-class only a few years or even months prior, but a relational or economic crisis has left them without. Others may have fled countries in crisis to come to a land of ‘milk and honey’ to find that their doctorate is not valid in this new adopted country. Others may suddenly have come upon a sickness, mental illness, or injury. Regardless, most likely, not one planned to end up in a food line-up in this facility to help the impoverished.
In our nation currently, 4 million, about 11.4% live under the poverty line. In my city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada a newspaper article in January, 2015 reported 1 in 8, or approximately 12% of people are living in poverty. And this poverty affects one of every 5 children.
So what can we do?
The dream would be eliminate poverty altogether. But honestly, I know I cannot do that as one person. But I still can do something by being part of a community that helps alleviate poverty. And no part is small. As a body of believers, each of us has been given a gift from the Spirit. And when we come together collectively using each of our unique gifts for a common purpose we not only make a difference, but glorify God, and shine the light of Jesus to others.
So, whether it be making bag lunches for a church street ministry, or serving meals at a shelter, or providing financially to a charitable cause, or a kind word to a beggar on the street, no part is small.
1 Corinthians 12:26-31 (The Message)
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this.
You do make a difference. A step in faithfully using your gift of the Spirit makes a difference, no matter the size.
Later as I clean tables, I see the 20 something year-old I served earlier, slinging his back pack up on to his shoulder as he walks toward the exit, his hat held in hand. He walks alone and I wonder where he might be spending the night. Will he be back to here, on this concrete floor with a mat and sleeping bag? Or does he have an old friend who will offer his couch to rest for the evening?
I will not know. But I say a prayer for him and for all the others who were served this day in this place. Sometimes a prayer is all that we can offer and that God calls us to do. And that is ok too.