There were lots of smiles.
There was lots of laughing.
And high fives.
There was lots of cooperation.
There were boisterous renditions of Happy Birthday.
And birthday ribbons.
Yet we were not at a birthday party.
We were working at a food pantry.
The school my kids attend stresses service and responsibility in helping others. Each month the school chooses one organization to support. For example, in September there is a walk-a-thon to help children with diabetes attend camp. In December there is a drive to collect hygiene products for the local shelter. In April, they raise money to purchase animals through Heifer, International. The kids are not to mooch money off of relatives, but are to donate their own money or do extra chores to earn it.
These are all great activities to teach the kids how to help people. But there needs to be more.
The school, to my delight, also requires all middle school students to complete service hours. Each year, hundreds of students learn how to not only help people, but how to serve others. Hopefully with a happy heart.
Besides raking leaves for old ladies, I take them to work at The Lord's Pantry.
I won't go into all of the details. In short, a man named Lucious Newsome came to Indy for work, helped serve meals on Thanksgiving, and discerned that he needed to help feed people every single day. He gave up everything and lived as a "beggar for the poor." The Lord's Pantry was thus begun. If you want to read more, the whole story is at the link above. I have worked there several times, and each time, the same amazing things have happened.
For the first hour and a half, volunteers set up the "store", organizing the fresh produce, bread, canned goods, chicken, drinks, and snacks that have been donated. Buttercup and Star went with me this time, and we spent the entire time measuring 200 pounds of flour into 2 cup packages.
Before the doors are opened, the volunteers are gathered to get instructions. Rule #1 is Smile. The folks coming through the line may not see another smile all week. Be polite, be happy, introduce yourself, be personable.
Holy cow, do the volunteers deliver! The regular volunteers know the people from the neighborhood. They know their names, they know the families, they know their stories. And they are genuinely happy to see them. When someone with a birthday walks in, a gift bow is slapped on her shoulder. The entire time, she has people wishing her a happy birthday, and before she leaves, everyone sings a boisterous Happy Birthday!
Some volunteers are in charge of telling customers how many of each product they can have. The luckiest volunteers get to help the customers carry their bags. I helped six women on Saturday. I simply walked behind each woman, carrying her grocery bags while she loaded them up. We introduced our children (my kids were passing out different products, theirs were helping carry groceries), we talked recipes, we hugged.
I had a great time.
On the way home, I was curious to know what Buttercup and Star thought of the experience. I teared up at Star's answer.
"I was surprised to see how many kids were there. And I was really surprised to see their clothes."
Huh? Did he think they would be naked? I asked for clarification.
"They had warm coats. They had normal clothes. They looked like me."
For years, he had been helping the poor without even knowing who "the poor" actually was.
The poor are people that look just like him. And me.
Are there people needing assistance because of drugs or alcohol? Yes.
Were there people who felt that it was a right to receive this food? Most certainly. (Buttercup had to be talked down after a woman got completely ticked off that she had to wait for a few seconds for someone to get her white bread instead of the wheat on the table.)
Does it matter? Not in the least.
Jesus did not tell us to help those that deserve it. He did not tell us to help only those people that we like. He told us to help those in need. Without judgement.
So we did.
In this election year, there is quite the debate over taxes. How much to tax and how to spend the money.
I am in the camp that says get rid of many of the taxes as well as many of the government help programs.
I get angry when people accuse those of us in this camp of not caring for those in need.
I am in this camp because I care very much for people in need.
When a person goes to apply for assistance, does she get a hug?
When the government sends the check, does it come with a smile?
Does the machine writing that check ask about her children?
Does anyone in the government gather a group of people to sing a boisterous Happy Birthday to her?
No. No, it doesn't.
There are so many people in this world who want to serve, and they are so much better at it than an impersonal government.
Do we need to pay taxes? Absolutely. The government is a necessity for a civilization to work.
But I would love to pay a whole lot less in taxes and give every penny of that money to charitable organizations that actually serve people.
Have a lovely day!