Back to School

 

Lonesome for Children's Voices

Do you sense fall in the air? Have you noticed the sun’s amber glow? The summer heat is waning. Last month, many families shopped for school and dorm supplies, anticipating the beginning of a new school year.

Yet many families didn’t have money to purchase new clothing or supplies. Their children will have to make do with what they have. Their children need clothing in larger sizes; they have outgrown already worn-out shoes.

Anticipation of a new school year is a joyful time for most children. For children living in poverty, it will be another year of being left behind, receiving leftovers, used clothing, maybe a new pair of shoes, receiving a donated backpack filled with school supplies.

Lining Up for Assistance before 8:30am

People Lining Up for Assistance

Poverty is a constant uphill battle, a formidable foe. It affects a child’s ability to learn. Poverty creates subtle stress in families. If parents can’t put food on the table for their families, how can they afford to provide needed clothing and shoes for their children much less afford to buy school supplies?

You can ease the cycle of poverty:

  • Volunteer at your local school.
  • Find out what a teacher needs for the classroom and donate it.
  • Be a mentor for a child.
  • Help a child learn to read.
  • Donate food to a local pantry.

Be generous to the poor—you’ll never go hungry; shut your eyes to their needs, and run a gauntlet of curses. (Proverbs 28:27, The Message)

 

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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.

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.

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?

 

Florida Hospital pledges millions to help the homeless – Orlando Sentinel

Thank you Florida Hospital. A corporate member of the community living Acts 20:35.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35, ESV

Florida Hospital pledges millions to help the homeless – Orlando Sentinel.

The Miserables

The Miserables

The Miserables aren’t only in a French novel written in the late 1800s.

How much more does living below the poverty line cost families already stretched to meet basic living expenses?

“I don’t get my check until 3pm. I will have to pay a $25 late fee after 11am. Can you help me?”

“I contacted the agency you recommended. They can’t see me for 2 months. They told me to save my money.”

As you see from the two statements above, there is a “tyranny of time” that adds to the numerous challenges families living in poverty face every day. Rental late fees dip into already limited family funds. An appointment more than 2 months away adds another roadblock to a family working to pull themselves out of a downward spiral created by a job loss.

Thousands of families struggle to pay monthly rent, provide food, and pay work-related transportation expenses. Many of us live in homes with well-stocked refrigerators, having money in bank accounts to pay rent or mortgages. We can afford gas for automobiles or we are able to fund public transportation fees and purchase food at favorite grocery stores while thousands of families struggle to meet basic living expenses including food.

During a performance of Les Misérables, our cell phones were off. Exiting the theater, we checked emails. A family had sent an email at 10:30pm on a Friday night. They asked for food. The head of household works two jobs. The spouse’s work hours have been cut back to one day a week. They have a 10 year old child. After paying their rent, they had $5 left over. Can you imagine a 10 year old living in a home with nothing to eat in the United States of America?

In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean was arrested and sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry family. If you had no food in your home and your 10 year old child was hungry, what would you do to get food? It is 2014. Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel speaks to us today.

Might you help a family in your community? Consider donating to a local food bank, feeding the homeless or discovering other ways to help families living in poverty.

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” Matthew 25:40