Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Yeah, that's it. So since we are supposed to do it, everyone will jump in and be supportive right? Shake yourself awake. Welcome back to planet earth filled with SUVs, crowded WalMarts, and traffic jams.
Saturday we were invited to hold a food drive at the local fairgrounds in conjunction with a huge Easter egg hunt. So, we got up early, got out to the fairground, set up a canopy, table, and chairs, and we set down to wait for the can goods to begin arriving. We noticed right behind our spot was a field littered in plastic Easter eggs, and we quickly surmised it was not going to be an Easter egg "hunt" but more of an Easter egg "gather". If you walked across the field, you literally could not take a step without stepping on five plastic eggs.
As it approached 11am, the crowds began arriving, you know the SUVs and minivans with two parents, four or five kids and the stick family decals on the back window. Yeah, those crowds. When the firetruck blew the airhorn for the first "gather", parents came running to the edge of the field to witness this incredible experience. In their haste to witness this once in a lifetime encounter, they failed to notice they were pushing into our canopy or spreading out on our table that had our brochures and can good collection on it. When we politely asked if they might relinquish the table we were using for food collection, one gentleman replied, "I see y'all ain't very busy."
Seriously? I swallowed hard while suppressing my gut reaction, and I could hear it...
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Yeah, I know. I cannot lash out. This is not about me. This is about what we are trying to do - to help those in our community struggling with hunger. But this guy is being obnoxious and needs to learn some manners and basic respect. OK, not my job to teach him what his parents left out. OK, I get it.
Soon the first round of egg gathering was complete and the field was as clean as a bowling ball. City workers appeared with boxes of plastic eggs and began to pour them all over the field to prepare for round two. And before we knew it, here came another wave of pushing and shoving parents oblivious to what was going on under the canopy. Once wave two was gone, one of the volunteers magically appeared with a web strap to limit access into the canopy from three sides. The final round of egg gathering should go a little easier I surmised. Go ahead. Laugh. You know you want to laugh.
My wife and one of the volunteers walked out to the midway to get something to eat. While they were buying food, people slowly began assembling around us to watch their children and grandchildren's shining moment gathering eggs. One woman looks over under the canopy and asked if she could "steal" (her words) one of our chairs. I said sorry but no, my wife was getting something to eat and would need to be able to sit down to eat. The woman was not happy with my answer and began trying to argue me out of the chair. I held my ground and said no, sorry a few more times. She finally dropped the subject and gave me an ugly glare.
Another guy walks up, sees the banner "Feed the Hungry" and wants to be funny. "Hey, I am hungry. Are you gonna feed me?" He asks. I take a look at him. He has a plump belly that indicates he has not missed a meal in many years. His clothing indicates he has not slept outside. He just wants to me a comedian. But it falls flat on those of us under the canopy. We all think the same thing, 16,740 people in our community - 11,020 of them children have missed many meals. They do not know where their next meal is coming from and in fact, they do not know that there is going to be a next meal. As kind as possible, I hear my wife respond, "No, I am afraid not. We are collecting food for hungry people. We would be happy to accept a financial contribution." He says he will check us out later and walks off.
I was quickly losing my hope in humanity. In the midst of all of the confusion, I see a man and a couple small children stop in front of our canopy. The father squats down to talk to the smallest child, but I cannot make out the discussion from the noise around me. They sit there for several minutes. They stand, my wife speaks with them. They smile and leave. She tells me that the parts of their conversation went along these lines, "You remember when sometimes at dinner we talk about we have a lot to eat and some people do not have anything to eat? That is what this table is for. These folks are collecting food for the people that do not have anything to eat. Of all the tables we have looked at today, this is the most important one." The father then asked his young son if he wanted to go home and get some of the money he had set a side for giving or if he wanted to go home and get some food. The little boy quietly said he wanted to go home and get some food to bring back.
BAM! My faith in humanity restored on the spot by one quiet and gentle father and his young son. All of the rudeness, shoving, and narcissism did not matter any more. These were little pot holes in the road to doing what needed to be done. If this was the biggest shot we had to endure to make a positive difference in the world, a little disrespect and attitude was small potatoes, right?
At the conclusion of the event, we talked with the food vendors and our mission was warmly received. One vendor provided 23 pizzas and 17 salads. Then came a pan full of ribs, pulled BBQ, salmon patties...before it was all over, we had approximately 150 pounds of leftover food donated by the event vendors. We delivered to four different ministries which fed well over 100 people that night with the food we collected.
Yeah, suck it up. Not everyone is on your team. It is not going to always be easy, but it is still important.