By 9:15 a.m. I was outside in the line of clients, registering them for the day’s serve. Among them was a young mom; bright, happy, kid on her hip. We’ve served her many times.
The door opens and clients stream in. I turn registration over to Barbara and begin making the rounds. I touch base with all the serving areas and return to the door. For the first hour, or longer, this will be the most congested place, the most probable spot for tension or client discontent.
The doorbell rings and it’s the bright young mom, alone this time. She’s wanting to know how leaving and returning is handled.
“The school called. My son threw up, so I had to go get him. They won’t let students stay if they throw up. He’s not sick; he just threw up. I dropped him off at home.”
She hears, “Well normally, when someone leaves, they go to the end of the line when they come back.”
That’s easily 30 places from her original spot in our sign-up line.
Then, “Come on, we’ll work you in.”
She seems surprised to learn we’ll let her wait inside, in the air conditioning. And what becomes obvious to me is that being served at the Storehouse today isn’t optional for her. Or those two children.
A vast majority of our Storehouse clients have never been served by the Case Management side of the Ministry Center. But some Storehouse clients have been Ministry Center clients for a long time. Such is the case of a young family we’ve known for over four years.
When we met them, they were in a panic. They had no income but did have a child and an infant. There are issues on several levels that keep them from getting or holding jobs. We helped them find a place to live, well, a camper. I took a couple of sticks of furniture to them. Then when they moved into a bigger trailer, I showed up with bigger furniture.
She shops in the Storehouse every month.
That big trailer was in the Brookside Park, the one that closed a month or so ago. So a few months ago, we talked at length in the waiting room about how she and her family were fairing. She shared with gratitude that they had seen this coming and had already found a new place to live.
I was grateful too.
And so it was with some urgency, and a sense of alarm, when she stepped through the door of the threshold with a suspicious bruise on her.
I went right to our case manager and explained what I’d seen.
“Oh, Mike, this has been going on for some time. Authorities have been involved. There is nothing we can do.”
Well, there is one thing I can do. I can prepare my heart for more bruises.
One of our personal shoppers had an appointment that called her away around eleven, so I filled in when we needed another one. And late in the day, I served a lady, probably my age, who had a physical condition which precluded her raising her arms above a certain height and her fingers remained fisted. At times, she struggled to make her choices and hand them over to me.
I bit my tongue at least once and reminded myself that she knows her own body. She lives with the limits of her capabilities every day. And surely she knows that if she even hinted a need for my help I’d have stumbled over myself to provide it.
And so I watched, and waited as she labored over her choices and handed them to me. I would catch myself leaning in, nearly hovering, and would then straighten myself.
Candy caught me in the hall. We’ve got a precious older gentleman client who is intellectually disabled. Candy was telling me he’d had an accident in the waiting room. You know, the kind that stains pants.
“Can we just let him go on through?” she asked.
“Will you shop him?” I replied.
“Sure,” and she was gone.
We had finally closed the door at 1:30 p.m., having served 99. That’s a big day. When we close the door, we also post a sign that says we’re done for the day. And then we hang a curtain. And turn out the light. It’s a big deal. We set a pretty hard boundary. Because, after 99 clients, which takes us another thirty minutes to serve after we’ve closed the door, we’re tired.
Then the case management side brought a lady who needed to be served if it was at all possible. Of course, we included her. And the friend she was shopping for. They were both desperate, the client said.
We were running low on everything. Section 5 in the dry food room was decimated. In the cold food room, the sandwiches were gone. So were the pizzas. It was meat, and some prepared food from Hendrix.
But the one thing we still had plenty of was compassion. Two of us walked with her through the hygiene and dry rooms, as she gushed her gratitude. Ross prayed over her as though she was our first client of the day.
It was 2:40 p.m..
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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