There's something healing about reaching out to others in need. Jesus knew what He was doing when He commanded us to "feed His sheep." He knew that it is a two way street when you help others. Somehow it helps you also.
I think anytime we can step out of ourselves is when we truly step into our purpose in living. It is the moments that we make a difference that count. It reminds us that, but by the grace of God, it could be US on the other end. It is at these moments that I stop and count my blessings.
Last night was one of those nights. My girlfriend Helen and I have been driving to St. Augustine, Florida on Thursday evenings to feed the homeless. The beauty of this personal ministry is that there is no real organized effort. People simply cook food in their own kitchen and show up with it.
The gathering usually took place at the downtown open park. Operations had been moved to a parking lot behind the Lightner Museum due to political and "tourism" pressure. Many merchants felt tourists did not like seeing hungry people fed in the lovely park.
And so we set out to find our new base of operations - an empty parking lot. We were bringing traditional Thanksgiving fare last night because we were both traveling the next two weeks and would not be back until December. We had spent the afternoon in our kitchens baking turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and wrapping individual slices of pumpkin pie.
The sun was setting with the new time change and it would be dark by the time we arrived. But the trunk was packed to the rim and off we went in search of hungry mouths. We were hoping we could find the new location and that there would be people there.
We arrived to find a parking lot with men, women and one child standing around. There was around one hundred people waiting. But there were no tables set up and no one else there serving something. Someone else usually brought the tables. It was time to think quick on our feet. Luckily Helen had a gut instinct while shopping to buy plastic cutlery and plates. The rest would be left to our ingenuity.
Meanwhile the crowd was getting restless and hungrier by the minute. They started forming a line. We decided to back the car up under a street light (the parking lot was not adequately lit) and make a serving table on top of Helen's car trunk. Another lady showed up with biscuits and a pot of sausage gravy.
We formed a production line operation and started passing out plates after we paused to bless the food and give thanks. They removed their hats and bowed their heads in silence before the hectic frenzy began. They were all excited to get turkey because most often they get mostly pasta or rice dishes that can stretch big to serve a lot.
We kept looking down the line to try and count heads hoping the meat would last to the end of the line. I assured everyone that Jesus had fed a crowd with scarce fish and loaves of bread and still had some left over. I knew He would make a miracle this night.
And sure enough He did! Somehow the huge crowd all got some of the 3 turkey breasts we had cooked. Do the math. I call it a miracle. Half an hour later all the food was gone. All His sheep were fed. And just as there were leftovers in the original miracle story……..as we were wrapping up, another troupe showed up to feed the crowd. More food! They had the tables we had needed.
But we had the satisfaction of having a real traditional "Thanksgiving moment" with the group before the second round of helpers arrived. This was actually "dinner on the ground" or a car trunk as it were. The crowd was a polite and appreciative one. They pitched in and helped best they could. They cleaned up and bagged garbage for us. One person asked me "Who are you ladies? Are you with a church group?"
I replied "Nope. We are just a couple of girlfriends who heard someone was hungry and decided to do something about it." I went on to explain how "The Faith Divas Society" was evolving and women were coming together to make a difference in the world and in our communities.
In a twinkling of an eye it was all over. We were exhausted but yet refreshed. Somehow, the petty annoyances and disappointments of everyday living seemed a little less important. Moments like this help us to see our true priorities in life.
As I shouted my blessing of the meal before we started serving the parking lot full of people - I reminded the crowd to keep an expectant heart - to believe that God was always with them - even in the most dire of circumstances. I encouraged them to keep believing and trusting God to show up. I was hoping that in their hearts they would receive the message that they might be homeless - but they were not hopeless.
If ever the twists and turns of life lead me to being hungry and homeless in a parking lot looking for food - I have faith that God will send someone to feed me also.