I’m a church school teacher and have planned “Haystack Friday” fundraisers to raise money for classroom field trips and other special activities and supplies for many years. There is usually leftover food, and sometimes we divide the items between the volunteer helpers, or the extra food is taken to the church potluck the next day. But I had never been impressed to deal with the leftovers from the fundraiser in quite this way until a couple months ago.
Our last customer had been served, and my classroom moms and I started the arduous task of cleaning up. There were lots of beans and rice left, lettuce and tomatoes…There was a lot of everything left!
“We should make some take-out boxes for the homeless.” I commented. Really? Did those words just come out of MY mouth? It was a great idea, but who would deliver them? At that point it didn’t matter. The moms were opening up the take-out shells and filling them with corn chips, beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives…There were chopped onions, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa on the side. The works!
The pots, utensils, and folding tables were quickly washed and put away, and suddenly my volunteers were gone, and I was alone with a stack of take-out meals for the homeless. Gulp! I knew of a city park a couple of miles from the school were a lot of homeless hang out. The criminal activity there was often reported in our local newspaper. I was sure there would be hungry people there, but I’ll just admit here that i’m a little afraid of the homeless. I wanted to be helpful, but I just wasn’t sure what to expect.
I didn’t want to go alone. I called my husband to see if he would help me deliver the meals, but he was still at work and wouldn’t be home until it was dark outside. I definitely didn’t want to go in the dark! And I definitely did not want to waste all that food. I was in such a quandary! It occurred to me that my quandary was because I was so fearful. I was fearful that someone in the park would be having mental issues; that someone would be off their meds, or someone was “self-medicating.” I was fearful that they wouldn’t be satisfied with the food I had brought. I was fearful that I would not be safe, especially alone.
So I had to have a conversation with myself. Were had this crazy idea to feed the homeless come from? I was sure it was from the Lord-the one who promised, “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for I, the Lord your God will go with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut.31:6 paraphrased) If the urge came from Him, wouldn’t He protect me?
Still with some fear and trembling, I loaded the meals into the back of my van and started driving toward the city park. Before I reached the first stop sign, I noticed a crumpled figure on a bus stop bench near our Spanish church. I pulled into the parking lot and steeled myself for the first delivery. As I approached the apparently sleeping person, I asked, “excuse me”, but are you hungry?” The man roused himself, sat up, and nodded. I handed him the meal and told him there was a fork inside the take-out box. He thanked me, I wished him well, and I was back to my van in no time. Now see? That wasn’t so bad.
But I was still worried about going to the park alone, and I prayed for more courage as I continued driving down the street. As I neared my destination, I noticed a man walking briskly down the sidewalk and thought I recognized his back. As I pulled alongside, I realized I was right, it was our high school science teacher, out for his five-mile walk. I pulled close to the curb, rolled down the window, and called out to him. He came up to the van, and I told him about my mission.
“Would you like me to come with you?” Don asked. Oh, thank you, Lord! Yes! Yes! Yes! I cleared stuff off the passenger seat, and he hopped in. Surprisingly there was no one at the park I had targeted, but Don knew of another place where he often saw homeless people while on his walk. Sure enough, there were several people sitting under a tree.
“I only have nine lunches left,” I told Don. “Do you see more people than that? I wouldn’t want to not have enough for everyone.” Don counted about six or seven people so I pulled over to the curb and parked. He started to walk toward the group while I opened the back of my van.
“What do I say?” He asked. “I’ve never done this before.”
Now the voice of one experience, I shared, “Well, with the first guy, I just asked if he was hungry.”
Without hesitation, Don joined the group, chatted a few moments with them, and then helped pass out the take-out boxes I had brought over to the tree. There were a few more people than we had thought, but it seems that everyone got a lunch. They thanked us and “God blessed” us, and we were on our way. Don continued with his walk, and I got in my van to head towards home.
As I drove, I thanked God profusely for His loving protection. I thanked Him for using me, His fearful servant. I thanked Him for Don’s willing presence. I thanked Him that Don was already on His way before I even left the school. I thanked Him for His promises-not only the one where He promises to be with me, but the one that says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will here.” Isaiah 65:24