Celebrate Summer

Going through the school’s playground late Thursday, he pushed a cart loaded with red bins covered with green lids, like bins you use to store Christmas decorations. The bins on his cart didn’t contain decorations. They were filled with food for children living in poverty.

Some students were on the playground as he pushed the cart to the bus boarding area. A young boy ran up to him, “Did I miss you Monday,” he asks? “I wanted a pastry.” The man pushing the cart tells him, “We’ll be there at 5 o’clock Monday. Don’t forget.”

On Monday, the young boy was the third child to arrive while we were unloading the car. Joseph arrived first, offering to help us set up. Then Andrew wearing Mardi Gras beads arrived carrying a smile as big as the beads around his neck. The young boy who missed the previous Monday arrived, selecting bread for his family. He took a French loaf, some sliced bread, and a cheese loaf. I suggested he take his overflowing grocery bag full of bread to his family, assuring him I would save a place in the pastry line for him. When he came back, he stood in his reserved place. When his turn came he selected a large cookie shaped like a flip flop covered with green icing that matched his shirt. He asked, “Can I take something for my mom?” I explained, “We have to make sure that everyone in line gets something. Stay in line so that you can get something else.”

At the pastry table for the second time, he selected another treat for himself and a treat for his mom. He stayed around, coming back to the pastry table a third time with crumbs on his face. He took another sweet for himself.

A young girl whose family moved from the motel to an apartment a few months earlier surprised us today. She lives closer to her school but misses her friends at the motel. She likes to ride the bus to be with her friends. Her mom picks her up at the motel a few days a week.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

These young children remind me of the simple joys of life.

  • Offer to help others.
  • Give genuine smiles.
  • Wear Mardi Gras beads to celebrate anything.
  • Share bread and pastries.
  • Ride with friends.

The last day of school is a week from Thursday. This summer, let’s try to help others. Smile a lot, celebrate something every day, share food and stay in touch with friends.

We can learn a lot at any table filled with bread and love especially when children are around us.

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Just Enough

Just Enough

Your heart melts, looking into her beautiful green eyes watching her lift each of three young friends to the table to choose a donated danish, cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie. She is nine years old, but acts more responsible than some adults. She steers another child to the front of the line, “She’s new. She doesn’t know what to do,” she says. Nine people are in her family. We give her a loaf of raisin bread dusted with powdered sugar to make French Toast. Walking away, she is smiling. Your heart melts a second time.

Today, there was just enough bread and pastries for everyone. A woman, a regular, was missing. We wonder where she is. Has she moved?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible)

You are the Light

You are the Light

A green-eyed child taking care to see that other children get a sweet treat on a hot Florida evening is a light in a dark world. Her light shines in spite of the darkness of poverty around her. Just enough good things shut out darkness.

Holy Week Experiences

While delivering bread, we met a young man whose life has resulted in many wrong turns. His goal is to correct his path. He can’t do it on his own.

At a restaurant, we talk with the waiter. “Where do you go to church?” We asked.

“I haven’t been to church since I moved here.”

“Where do you live?”

Based on what he said, we offered names of churches he could attend Easter Sunday or any Sunday.

The Holy Spirit will move in the two young men’s lives if they are open to receive the Spirit’s guidance.

During a Centering Prayer gathering, the Holy Spirit moved among us. A gentle presence of the Trinity blessed our time together.

Friday morning, we helped assemble almost 200 Easter Meals donated through the local Catholic Church and the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Forty meals designated for families in transition were distributed to children unable to receive minimal daily nourishment due to family circumstances.

Saturday, we delivered five remaining Easter Meals and nine donated hams to other needy families.

While delivering one meal, a woman hugged us with tears in her eyes. She was grateful to receive God’s provision. Her grandson had lost a tooth during the week. She dug into her worn couch hoping to find coins. There were few. It would be two days before her husband would receive his paycheck. She bought her grandson a tiny turtle anyway. Her grandson named it Turbo. Her husband asked, “What are you buying a turtle for when we don’t have money for food?” Then God shows up through the generosity of a local Catholic Church with an Easter Meal for her family.

The young man hoping to correct his path was surprised to see us. He is working to connect to agencies that can help him change his circumstances.

When we least expect it, God shows up through many hands and feet of caring people working to do His will His way. We are grateful to the many people, churches and organizations who generously give God’s provisions to those in need.

You Don’t Want That Dog

Every evening I look up, watching lights go on in a third floor corner condominium diagonally across the street from my home. Nola used to live there, her terrace filled with tomato plants, basil, other vegetables and herbs. Ten years ago this month, Nola began a 6-week seminar in my home teaching Dr. Joel Furhman’s “Eat to Live” program. Fourteen women gathered every week to listen to Nola’s wisdom.

Nola

Nola

We watched videos, discussing material, enjoying fellowship. Nola passed away August 25, 2012.

A photo of a rescue Chihuahua named Nola living in Virginia is mounted on my refrigerator door.

April of 2013, a beloved friend’s dog named Francois passed away. She notified me of the passing by email. Condolences were sent. I didn’t hear back from her which was unusual.

A lengthly letter arrived August 25, 2013 a year to the day of my friend Nola’s passing. The letter described my friend’s recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, her chemotherapy, surgery and radiation she had gone through the past months. Her letter included a photo of Nola, a newly acquired rescue Chihuahua to help her heart repair from the loss of Francois.

One day she and her husband went to the pound around closing time. She saw a Chihuahua. She was advised not to take the dog, being told, “No one can handle this one.” She asked to take the dog outside. The dog immediately warmed to her, jumping into her lap, sitting peacefully. It was closing time. She decided to take the dog home, naming her Nola, for her love of New Orleans (NOLA) and family ties going back several generations. Two weeks after adopting the Chihuahua, she received the earth-shattering pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

When I read her letter, I shuttered in unbelief. On the anniversary of my friend’s death, I learned of my friend’s diagnosis and learned about a dog named Nola comforting her during a severe medical crisis.

We met later. I shared this with her. It gave her comfort. She is in remission. Her dog Nola does have her challenges with the rest of the family pets, but she is a comfort to her master.

When the lights go on in the third floor condominium, I think of Nola. Angels are among us. Some may be covered with fur.

Furry Angel

Furry Angel

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

An eighteen year old watches us set up tables of donated bread as wind whips through the parking lot. Children’s clothing covers another table. I asked the eighteen year old if he needed a jacket. Motioning him to follow me to my car, I showed him a few men’s jackets. He selected a red fleece pullover, smiling as he took it into his hands. After receiving the pullover, I sensed he felt more at ease with us. 

Donated bread can bridge differences, equalizing deliverer and receiver. For a few minutes, we meet in Christ’s love. Helpful children place bags of bread on tables, talking to each other as they sort through clothing. Grateful to receive some bread and newer clothing, wind gusts carry their many thank you’s into the air, including the thanks of a shy eighteen year old, now with a red fleece pullover to keep him warm.

Can you spare a jacket?

Can you spare a jacket?

Do you own extra jackets? Have you considered giving one to someone who needs it more than you? When you give anything away, Christ’s love will fill your heart.  

  “He also said to them, ‘Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread  because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.’” (Luke 11:5-8, CEB)

Like an eighteen year old young man, some people are too embarrassed to ask for help. If called upon, some people will get up in the middle of the night, maneuvering through a house full of people to help.

What if people helped the needy before they had to ask?

 

In-between Times

In-between Times

Life is like a Kodak Gray Scale that is used in photography and film making. Lives may not be so much pure black or white but are lived in the in-betweens of  black and white, teetering between good and bad, secure and insecure.
A woman holds a tattered cardboard sign asking for spare change at a busy intersection.
Nearby, a weary-looking man wearing well-worn clothing pushes a shopping cart containing a single black trash bag. I suspect the over-stuffed trash bag holds his life’s belongings.
Two people, living in-between secure and insecure. How many others are living in-between, attempting to survive the insecure, fighting to get to something secure.
Spare change. Black trash bags. Tattered cardboard signs. Tonight’s local weather forecast predicts chilling temperatures. No county homeless shelter exists where this woman or weary man might go to stay warm. What will they do?

Egino Weinert's Good Samaritan, available through creatormundi.com

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers? ‘The one who treated him kindly,’ the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, Go and do the same.” (The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, 10:30-37, The Message)

Bread for Hurting Souls

It has been a gloomy day. Rain started falling around 3pm. Our weekly Panera bread donation needed to be packaged for motel delivery. Baguettes, bagels, bread bowls and loaves were broken down, packaged in bags donated from a local Winn Dixie grocery store. The steady rain meant we would distribute donations from a motel’s front office portico. When we arrived, a few children were already waiting. “Do you have any groceries,” some asked. We did not have groceries to distribute today. One of the children we see every week shared that a young girl was celebrating her 10th birthday. We gave her four perfectly packaged chocolate cookies, wishing her a happy birthday.

“We have to go to room 128,” my husband said.

A young child asked, “What church are you from?” We respond, “God’s church. Several churches support our work.” Another usually shy child said, “Not all churches believe in God.” We talked further. He and his family leave Monday to visit his grandmother in Puerto Rico. We talked about holidays. Most always, I carry copies of The Upper Room Daily Devotional. I was led to give him the latest issue. He was pleased.

Rain became heavier. I walked to room 128. A week ago Saturday, a beloved motel maintenance man was found dead in his room. A woman shared the sad news with us the following Monday. She said that everyone was crying. People were taking it real hard, especially the children because everyone loved him. His memorial service was in Orlando this morning. Most of the people at the motel where he lived, friends and neighbors didn’t have a way to get there. The motel gave them a room to honor their friend today. They wanted us to stop by to honor his memory. Pizza was served. Soda and water were available in a blue cooler sitting outside the door. Grief was palpable.

Inside the room, a beautiful memorial of photographs of this precious soul and his pets were illuminated by several candles. His son and daughter-in-law sat on one of two beds. An open journal was placed in front of the candles and photographs honoring him.

In the rain, we carried remaining pastries, scones and cookies to room 128. People hugged us. A man shared how much he loved his friend. Another Upper Room filled one of my coat pockets. I was led to give it to a  woman who arranged the memorial to honor one who lived a big life, loved by many. Her neighbor and friend living in a tiny room impacted many people. He was honored today and this evening. May he rest in peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.(John 14:27, NLT)

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans