Okay, I have a confession to make. It’s nothing juicy or salacious. However, it is important.
But first, I want to tell you about bags.
We employ the used shopping bags from Kroger, Walmart, and any other store in which donors of bags have shopped. We received a gajillion (correct spelling, look it up), on Feed the Need day, but bags are also donated throughout the year, primarily by Storehouse volunteers.
We use these bags mostly in our hygiene room, to hold clients’ choices there, and also in the cold food room (we’re trying this new name for the hottest room in the Storehouse, what do you think?) to bag cold items destined to condensate. We probably average 3.7 used bags per client per serve day. (And another ten new ones per client, donated by Walgreens.)
We receive these bags from donors in a state you can probably imagine. Seventy-nine bags wadded up, crammed into a single bag, the handles having been pretzelized (come on, we make verbs out of nouns all the time, like hammering and our favorite, google it) to close the top.
So, the bags have to be snapped. To snap bags, one grabs the handles, uses the arm as a bullwhip, which causes the bag to take on a little air and return to a shape similar to its original. Once several snapped bags hang from a snapper’s hand, the air is squeezed from them all and they are nestled among others in a paper grocery sack, which maintains its shape regardless of how many bags it holds, handles out, for easy single selection.
The weekend after I became the Storehouse director, I snapped over 1200 bags. And now I just snap them as they come in, although I haven’t worked through all the FTN bags. I’d like to say I spend all that time praying over the donor who put items for our clients in those bags, or for the clients who will take home items in those bags, and that does happen, but mostly I just watch television with my wife. With the volume unusually high, of course, cause I’m snapping bags.
And one night this week, I snapped a bag and realized it was inside out. Of course, by that I mean the printed side was on the inside. It’s a silly argument, kinda like when we say that the north pole of our planet is on the “top” of the planet in a universe that has no top or bottom. The handles still worked and the bag would hold just as much, but the print was on the inside. And that’s the kind of detail, a little thing not quite right, one bag among others in the paper sack that wasn’t like the rest, that my British friends would say puts my “nickers in a twist.”
And as I took hold of that bag to make it right side out, suddenly the fingers of the Holy Spirit took hold of my heart and toxins flowed like goop from an abscess. Resentment, pride, frustration, anger, it all oozed out, so thick I could have spread it on a metaphoric slice of Wonderbread.
My Part 1 confession is that it only takes a whiff of “I ain’t been done right” and the whole spiritual structure begins to wobble like a kid’s bike with the training wheels suddenly gone.
Part 2 is, that’s the heart I’ve been loving and serving from for weeks. Functional but broken. A broken heart. And one way to fix that is to tell someone, you know, that whole “confess your sins to one another, so that you can be healed” thing in James. And the Holy Spirit can reach down into the bottom, like I did that bag, and pull the thing right side out.
And my life, once again, won’t just mimic the Kingdom, but can be the Kingdom, and begin to tell the truth about our Savior.
With a heart that is no longer not quite right.
The pantry won’t serve on Thursday, July 4th. Cause it’s July 4th. It hurts my heart because I really wanted to serve 50 times this year. We lose two serves at Christmas and New Year. I wanted our clients to have the other 50. But volunteers are away. We just can’t do it.
And, Spring says I have to take a vacation, so that’s our long weekend away. But I don’t need a vac-ation. What I need is a recre-ation. Right down to the bottom of my Kroger sack.
But until then, we serve. At 1:30 today, I just wanted to scream, “We did it!” We’d received frozen chicken, cooked but frozen biscuits, bags of mixed lettuce greens, all too late for processing. Volunteers had to get that ready for distribution this morning, along with the Panera and Julie’s and Larry's Pizza donations.
You should come by and watch the Storehouse in action some Thursday. Twenty or so volunteers are all moving at once. They communicate with each other and with our clients. They read each other’s minds. It’s seamless. Everyone knows what they themselves are doing and what everyone else is doing. They are loving and caring for clients. And each other.
Some of our volunteers are also clients. So, while I was registering clients before the door opened, one of our personal shoppers helped a volunteer shop.
We welcomed back a teacher who is on summer break. And what a blessing. She took a five minute lesson and then worked a computer at registration. And we welcomed a teenager to the volunteer corps. We never know how that will go. But before the day ended, another volunteer had tracked me down to say she was a natural.
Six of our nineteen volunteers today were in their first or second serving experience.
But we did it.
And we were really grateful to welcome back Maria. She brings a lot of insight and heart, and excellent Spanish as well.
I had really meaningful conversations with a couple of men today. I met the first one when he was a client at our warming station. I asked him today if he was working, and he said he was in between jobs. But he’s now working in his field.
“Mike, y’all helped me pay to get re-certified as an electrician.”
The other has been a long term client of the Ministry Center and Storehouse. He was telling me about his job and his family’s growing independence. Then he said, “And it started right here. The lady who prayed with me, her son was going into the Army. I went and got the job he was leaving. Now I’ve been promoted. It will be my career. I’ll retire there. And it all started right here.”
And that is, of course, because Jesus is the One who starts everything here. We don’t push that down anyone’s throat, or go to extremes to make sure clients know it.
But we know it.
Even when our hearts are inside out.
I am the Storehouse Director and get the privilege of writing about the people that Jesus loves.
Contact Mike Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org for all things "Volunteer".
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