I’m going to tread lightly on this week’s devotional in order to protect the names of the “innocent”. Mostly because the story I’ll share this week was fostered out of comments from a friend who I know did not mean to imply what ultimately came across by the comments. Anyway….so here goes…
Most people who know me might tell strangers that “Mike loves to be involved in community…”. And that’s true. The flip side, however, is that it’s always a fine balance for me with the other responsibilities in my life….family, work, chickens….(okay, maybe not so much the chickens…). When you stay involved in community efforts over time, eventually you get asked to become the “leader” of such groups. Such is the case for me…and for one particular church effort, where I get to help several leaders assist some of the wellness interests of our members and the goals of our church.
All well intentions….always.
One such focus has been a program through a partner organization, Urban Ministry, and “Room In The Inn”. The committee was discussing how we might assist with a perceived laundry bottleneck that occurs when “guests” from less fortunate members of our community come and stay overnight on church property one night a week during the winter months where sleeping on the street might otherwise be dangerous or even deadly. Twenty-four guests are provided a warm dinner, access to showers, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and access to two pairs of washer and dryers. And while the overall program is very efficiently run, its been my observation that the sheer volume of laundry from our guests and the limitations of only two washer/two dryers contributes to the bottlenecks that ensues.
“What’s our role here, Mike”, I was asked by the committee. My response was a longer explanation to which if we cannot provide “rest” for our guests because many are staying up all night waiting in line for laundry machines to free up, then I don’t think we’re contributing to the full wellness of these same individuals.
“Let’s just add more machines” was one solution offered up. Yes…maybe, but that requires some intervention by facilities management, potentially a new laundry room, renovations to existing infrastructure, etc. Could be a longer process, if you ask me.
And there’s the ideal of a mobile laundry service that I talked about after reading of a similar offering out in San Diego. Think of a food truck, of sorts, but the truck is filled with a bay of washers and dryers. Could be a solution down the road, but again, there’s a lot of planning involved.
I heard about a church north of Charlotte that tackled this problem another way. When the guests arrive, there’s a team of church members who are standing “at-the-ready” with laundry bags to take dirty belongings from the guests. There’s a dialog that occurs, a quick inventory of items, and a commitment from the church member to bring back the dirty clothes “clean” in a couple hours. And, during the two hours of separation, the guest can relax, take a shower, get off his/her feet, etc.
Without knowing all the details, my initial thoughts for this third solution are “man, there must be a huge amount of trust….”. For many of these guests, their laundry in a plastic garbage bag represents most if not all of their personal belongs. Their “life” is inside that plastic bag. Would you be willing to part with your worldly possessions to a total stranger?
When I shared this story with the committee, one individual said, “I think we’d have trouble with this type of solution….I mean, think of all the dirt and grime in those clothes. Imagine what we might find…..”.
Now, as I said above, I am 100% certain the person who expressed those concerns did not mean for it the way it came out. But while the room became completely silent….I politely replied…..”I think that’s the entire point…”.
Picture me up on my soap box for a minute now. I firmly believe that we have an obligation to serve those in our community who are far less fortunate than us. And many times that means we’re getting dirty and filthy along the way. I checked my answer to my fellow committee member…but what I really wanted to say was “while we might experience two hours of filth and dirt…..that’s nothing compared to those individuals less fortunate who deal with it every day…”.
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in the upper room, it was symbolic in many ways. But above all, it was His demonstration of humility and servant-hood. Frankly, I bet the disciples were stunned. But this was just one of the many ways Jesus reiterated that He came to serve….and not to be served.
Remember too when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan….and He asks “which among the three was a neighbor to the (Samaritan) man…”? And, after the correct response is given, Jesus reminds them to “go and do likewise.”.
I believe we need to stand face-to-face, toe-to-toe and (perhaps) shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors who are less fortunate. Maybe it’s as simple as doing a dirty laundry inventory and agreeing to bring back someone’s worldly possessions. Maybe it’s building a Habitat home. Or maybe it’s tutoring a fatherless child in his/her math homework.
Regardless of what we’re doing, my prayer this week is that we remember Christ’s call to us to do “likewise”. I promise you will get much more out of serving than those who are being served.
….stepping down from soapbox now…..