photo © 2009 ZYG_ZAG | more info (via: Wylio)The one thing I brought back from my cruise that I would have liked to leave on the boat is a nasty little virus that has left me with a sore throat, runny nose and overall yucky feeling. My husband caught it on Friday, I came down with it on Saturday and then the girls got it on Sunday. I probably infected my entire staff on Monday and all of Hillside court on Tuesday. If you are one of my victims, please forgive me!
Viruses are rather amazing organisms. You can’t see them because they are so tiny but they can infect grown healthy men and bring them to their knees.
Today, I witnessed another type of virus. It started during our morning meditation when Antionette shared that she had been dreaming of this day for two years. You see today, we launched our first mobile food pantry. For those of you who do not know, the mobile food pantry is basically a food pantry on wheels. For two years, we have been working with the Hillside tenant council, RRHA and local churches to try to address food scarcity in Hillside Court, but a lack of secure space and a lack of funds prevented us from moving forward. The cool thing about the mobile food pantry is that you don’t need space. The truck rolls in, you distribute the food on the sidewalk and the truck takes everything that is left over away. It is an amazing site to see. The other cool thing is that it is fully funded by the Central Virginia Food Bank which is such a gift to a community like Hillside court where there are no organizations who could afford that much food.
The virus then spread from Antionette to our volunteer team as we reflected on the story of Jesus feeding the multitude in John 6 with the lunch of one small boy. We got to be the disciples and distribute this gift which was truly direct from the hand of God. As we reflected upon how this miracle arrived in our community and all the prayers we had prayed for food resources over the years, Vanessa helped us see that miracles are times like this. No one on the outside would see the miracle but we all knew that is what we were witnessing. I believe it was that time of praising God for this miraculous gift that infected the team with an attitude of gratitude.
It was then the team who infected everyone who walked in the door. As Antionette greeted our guest with a smile and instructions, they felt welcomed and invited into the joy of the day. As Sylvia and Vanessa processed applications and verified ID’s they extended dignity to our guests. As Chinary entertained those who were waiting with a game of charades, they could feel her positive energy and their frustration with having to wait in line turned into joy. As Ann took their vouchers and John helped load their bags, they did so with a smile and cheerfulness. All the way down that line, the spirit of joy translated into a spirit of gratitude from those who received.
By some miracle, we served every family and had a small amount left over to meet emergency food needs between now and the 1st of the month.
One of my favorite stories from today came from Janie. There was a young single mom with a newborn baby and a toddler. She was trying to hold the baby, the toddler, and two bags of groceries at the same time. There was a healthy, young man just standing around watching her struggle. Janie went up to him and asked him to help her with her food. He smugly said, “It will cost you .50 cents a bag.” Janie looked him in the eye and said “You mean to tell me that you are not willing to help this woman and these kids out? I am very disappointed that a young man as healthy and strong as you are would refuse to help this poor woman.” Ashamed he grudgingly said “Oh, ok…I will help her.” After he took the bags to her home, he returned to the food pantry, found Janie and said, “Thanks lady, that felt great. Thanks for setting me straight and for making me help someone else.” Janie then asked him if he had been through the line and he said, “No, I don’t live in Hillside.” She said, “We have enough for everyone, grab a bag.” He smiled at her and said, “Isn’t that just like God. I finally help someone else and God has a blessing waiting for me.”
Viruses can infect grown men and turn them into grateful servants.
Throughout the day, the greatest blessing to me was the number of folks who came up to me and asked how they could get involved at Embrace. They saw that the person greeting them was a resident of Hillside, the people behind the tables were residents of Hillside, the people unloading the trucks were residents of Hillside. So many groups come into this community and “do for” the community but no one ever invites this community to “do for” themselves. That spirit of gratitude quickly became a spirit of giving when they realized they could be on the other side of that table. In a neighborhood where a culture of “taking” rules the streets, I know it was nothing short of a miracle that this virus of gratitude and giving is taking root.
On the applications for the mobile food bank, we asked folks if they would be willing to serve in the community and roughly 100 individuals said “yes.” Watching people go from recipient to giver is one of the greatest joys in the world. I can’t wait to see what God does with all these newly “infected” folks. It is getting very exciting in Hillside Court!
Are you smiling? Is your heart filled with joy? I guess I should have warned you, I infected this post with the virus. Now go and infect someone else!