On a cold November morning, a long line of warm-hearted people patiently waited outside the church doors to gather items to protect them and their families from the winter cold.
We sometimes forget the term “community” is not some abstract term – the reality is filled with faces, names very real needs.
Near the front of the line, trying to stay out of the direct force of a cold wind, a mother with 3 small children waited patiently. Behind her stood two sisters who’d arrived even earlier. Behind them were over a hundred others – each with their own story and needs.
Winter, as we all know, does not discriminate by gender or age.
Recently I found myself working with a group of friends from our local Rotary club to distribute thousands of dollars of donated coats, sweaters, gloves, and blankets to those in need. The items collected and donated by individuals, was a part of the annual Share the Warmth community drive.
Within minutes of the church doors opening, dozens of people fanned out into the church community room, each looking for something to help insulate them from the cold temperatures everyone knew would soon arrive. Tables filled with thousands of donated items waited patiently for a new home. The room, however, was quiet and respectful of the reason for everyone in attendance.
Children tried on stocking caps, adults wrapped their arms around colorful blankets, men tried on heavy coats.
“Here,” said a man with his bag of warm clothing under his arm. “I’d like to make a donation.”
“No,” said the Rotarian sitting at the table, “That’s not necessary, but thank you.”
“When the Lord blesses you,” said the man, “You should always bless back.”
With that he reached into his pocket and pushed forward a small handful of dollar bills.
“Here,” he said, “This is all I have — but please take it.”
Standing there, I couldn’t help but be struck by the combination of selflessness and generosity of the man. His shirt, with well-worn holes, struggled to cover his body. A single pass to a nearby table could’ve easily upgraded is wardrobe. But to him, he saw a much larger picture.
Looking down at his bag, I couldn’t help but notice how few items he’d collected. To him, he only took what he needed — others, he knew, would need items as well.
We spent the next couple moments talking. His smile was big — nearly as big as his heart. After a few moments, he turned and quietly slipped out the door with his modest collection of items.
People, for the most part, are good-hearted. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget this little detail in the rush of our daily lives.
But for me, the experience of a single man with the big smile offering up all the money in his possession will forever serve as a reminder to me of why must always must never lose sight of literal faces of “community.”
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