Last week I wrote about the joy and agony of loving and shared some moments with clients from last week’s serve that weighed on my heart. But I didn’t share what began that thread in me.
I was in the warehouse, well after serve had begun. And I was wrestling with our food quantity. Well, that’s not actually true. Our food, for the most part, is pretty passive. I was actually wrestling with my feelings about how we’ll continue to feed our increasing number of clients with our dwindling stash of food.
Specifically, I was staring at the pasta sauce. It’s a hot item and clients take almost 200 cans a month. When Feed the Need concluded, we had an entire pallet of Hunt’s 24 oz. cans of the stuff in those pretty red labels. There must have been five different varieties and I thought we’d never run out. But we did.
There are times when 10 Box will put them on sale for 88 cents. Add ten percent at the register, then tax. They’re just a little over a buck and I deal with the discomfort of my having violated the unwritten rule in my mind that I just can’t spend a dollar on any single item in the Storehouse. But, when I find them on sale, I usually buy 100 cans.
However, they haven’t been on sale in forever so I’ve been getting them at the Food Bank, and I’m grateful. They are a generic brand, the label isn’t as pretty, there are no flavors like Five Cheese, or Garlic. And the worst thing is, they’re only 15 oz. cans. We wrestled with that too. We could tape two together, but that’s now 30 oz. a lot for one family, and too, we’d immediately cut our distributable quantity in half.
So we put them on the serving shelves. It’s not what I’d like for our clients, but it’s all we’ve got. “We give away what Jesus give us!” is my usual sing-song response to a volunteer who remarks that we’re low or have completely run out of an item. Or, possibly, the more theological rhyme, “Jesus gives us what he wants us to have.”
But there’s a spot in my heart that looks a lot like the pit of my hamburger grill, dead and ashy, where I hold resentments about things like the quality and quantity of food items on our serving shelves.
So last week, I was standing in our warehouse, measuring our food resources; a bustling, vibrant pantry serving day happening on just the other side of the wall. And I noticed that some of those 24 oz. Hunt’s variety pasta sauce cans had been donated. They were right there on the stocking shelves. Dates checked, tagged with their section number. And I thought, I could put some of those out.
But quickly realized that the 15 oz. cans of generic pasta sauce cannot compete with the 24 oz. Hunt’s, and we’ve got a lot of those 15 oz. cans left, and they’re older. No, I need to put them out first. I need to actually withhold from our clients what I want them to have. It’s the science of groceries.
My eyes filled with tears in that moment, as they do even now while I write about it. And then I experienced the client interactions I wrote about last week. One thing I’m learning as a servant in the pantry is that we Christ-followers are given the capacity to love others, even strangers, with a selfless and sacrificial love, but in doing so our hearts will not be protected from the associated agony inherent in the act of loving others.
I’ve said before, Love is a Verb, but I’m coming to understand that it’s also a weight we carry. And it’s a joy to carry it, but joy doesn’t make it any less a burden. The responsibility of loving has always been obvious to me when it came to my children, or my grands. My work at the Storehouse has put me in a position to see what is not so obvious. That I’m to carry the weight of love for the People That Jesus Loves.
And guess who put me in my position in the Storehouse? I reckon it’s the One who wanted me to see these things.
I wish you could have seen us in action yesterday. Imagine a residential bathroom. You step through the door, there’s a counter on the right. It’s got a sink in it. Beyond that sits a toilet, and then a bathtub in the back. Now imagine 11 people in there. Five of them have not had access to water in a few days. They are all talking. Three of them are talking to you!
For the entire serve, I had the feeling that I was standing just a little too close to someone.
But it was a great day. I brought my computer over and put up signs saying that if a client wanted, they could apply for a job at Goodwill online. We didn’t know exactly how we’d do this, and changed our logistical plan at least three times, but it was pretty simple.
The first client who began applying on the laptop immediately demonstrated professional skills well beyond what she’d be asked to do at Goodwill. We talked for a bit and I found a link to the job listing for the State of Arkansas. That’s where she’d find jobs at UCA. She’d fit right in there. There’s another place in my heart that holds hope. And now she, and her new job, are in there.
Throughout the day at least eight people filled out an online application.
A young client, L, came in about noon. When I was thinking back to the first time I’d seen him, I realized it was when we were still in our old location, where Ministry Center offices are located now. That was a year ago. We’ve been serving in our new location for a year.
When I met L, he was not a happy person. He’d come to Arkansas in pursuit of a relationship with a woman and that hadn’t worked out. According to him, it was her fault, and so was pretty much everything else in his life, but I sensed something broken in his heart or mind that would make him just as culpable.
But yesterday, he greeted me with a smile. I don’t know if he’d been spending time in the gym, or if his shirt was just two sizes to small, but I mentioned how great he looked. He thanked me in the brief moment between greeting and Cheryl taking his data for the list.
Later, he came out to wait in line for a personal shopper. He told me that he’d been away for a while, and there had been some jail time, but things were better now that he knew Jesus. I told him things were better in my life since I’d given my heart to Jesus. He flashed a broad smile, and then distractions took over again and I was called away.
Later, I was coming out of the dry food room as he was being led in. He held up his fist and told me that what I had said to him at the door when he came in had meant a lot to him.
We bumped fists.
He was one of the 94 we served yesterday. 101, 101, 94: 296 in three serves. We’ve never done that volume, except for two months ago when we served 305 in the three serves of July.
What an adventure, this following Jesus, has become.
I am the Storehouse Director and get the privilege of writing about the people that Jesus loves.
Contact Mike Rush at email@example.com for all things "Volunteer".
Join our blog mailing list