Tuesday, December 2, 2008

These holidays bring extra pain to some of our friends and neighbors…let’s be gracious and inclusive

AT OUR CLOTHING MINISTRY. The second Wednesday evening of each month is Clothing Ministry night at West Morris Street Free Methodist Church. I wish we were able to share more frequently, but it's a faithful expression of grace from our congregation for which I'm thankful. We begin with a common meal of soup and sandwiches prepared by volunteers. I lead in some singing, share a gospel story, and make announcements. Then neighbors select clothing they desire in the pantry. WEMO shares this act of hospitality with 50-60 neighborhood households monthly.

FESTIVE NIGHT...EXCEPT FOR ONE. In December, the Clothing Ministry is always festive, as it was a couple of years ago when a neighbor left a sad message. Christmas decorations and music warmed the dining room as about forty-five of us ate together. We all sang in a request-a-carol format, including some songs in Spanish with our Latino neighbors--about a third of those who gathered. In the pantry, new and gently used coats were added to the mix, items our Missions Commission had challenged the church to bring in. But at least one woman was overwhelmed by her aloneness in the midst of this well-intentioned evening. She left the following words written on the back of a paper placemat. She didn't sign her name.

Can no one see the pain? Can no one see me?
I must really be alone.
So sad. A mother's love. Brokenheartedness.
I drop to my knees and ask, "why me, God?
Why has my life been so hard?"
3 kids at 17 years. Married at 15 years.
Now, 36 years later, with my earthly father gone
no more than 3 weeks. What can I do?
My kids are all grown, except for one.
And on this Christmas, we don't have a home,
No Christmas lights, no more children's laughter.
Only tears, only tears.
Hurt for my drug-addicted boys.
Hurt for my daughter because I can no
longer give her what she needs.
Can no one see me?
Am I really all alone?

SINCE THEN. I’ve thought of this woman off and on since finding her note that night. I’ve prayed for her and her family. I’ve imagined more people that I encounter being in her shoes since then. I’ve tried to be more careful in my conversations with parishioners and neighbors regardless of apparent economic circumstances. I might not be able to provide housing, but I certainly know folks who can. I might not be able solve her problems but I want to be available for her to be listened to and heard…and prayed for. This woman represents to me the painful feelings of many that go unnoticed and unexpressed during this season. I want this awareness to continue to shape my understanding.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.