We all, we all wear dignity. It covers the strong, the weak. We all, we all wear dignity. Even the last, the lost, the least.
The next morning I found myself in Peter’s SUV along with Adam and two other guys named Seth and Mark. Our team had split up in order to satisfy some of the church’s more practical needs. My particular group was headed to the home of a widow whose husband had previously pastored at the church. She was preparing to sell her house, and a team of five stalwart, young men was just the thing she needed. After some difficulties in instructions delayed our coming by half an hour, we arrived at a modest but well-kempt suburban home and set to work with gusto.
“Is there anything I can do?” I offered after the others set about vacuuming and moving furniture. Within seconds, a rag and dust spray appeared in my hand. It was not the most manly activity by any stretch, but a legitimate way to help, and I determined to do as much as I could as well as I could. We labored on for the better part of the morning, stopping on occasion for a drink of lemonade or tea. At one point, my work took me upstairs, where Peter labored to clean the bathroom.
“You know, I think one reason we’re so antagonistic towards the poor is because of their liberal tendencies.” I said, recalling my own reactions the day before,
“Like, it’s the conservative mindset to just let them help themselves get out of it.”
“Yeah,” he grunted in agreement, “I think that’s part of it.”
“But that isn’t the Christian position. We’re called to love these people no matter what. And it’s tough.”
“I feel you there,” he replied, “I see homeless people in Burbank, where I’m from, all the time, and it’s like, my gut reaction is to think they’re just liberals who don’t care if they’re there or not.” I nodded and continued dusting, lost in thought.
Soon enough, we completed every task the widow could think of, and prepared to return to First EV Free Church. I smiled as she gave us all hugs and expressed her gratitude. Serving this woman, a needy sister in Christ, brought joy and satisfaction easily enough. Hopefully we would be doing a few more simple work sessions like this before the trip ended.
The afternoon featured a return to 12th Place, this time after the schools got out. “I can do this, I can do this…Wait!” I checked myself, “no, I can’t do this, at least not without You Jesus. God, help me right now.” Just as before, the girls quickly assumed reading and teaching positions on the blankets, this time outnumbered by the children. I walked over to where Kat had started assigning students to children.
“Here, I’ll take this guy,” I indicated a boy six or seven years old. “What’s your name?”
He mumbled something quietly, so I repeated it as best as I could and took him to a stack of books.
“Which one do you want?” He glanced briefly at each book as I shuffled through them, finally placing his pudgy thumb on a Magic School Bus story. I smiled as I recalled reading such books nearly a decade ago, and positioned myself beside him on the blanket.
When we finished the story, I noticed a circle of chubby kids and college students bouncing a kickball around.
“Hey,” I said, “You wanna go play ball with them?” He paused for a moment, looked up at me, and nodded shyly.
“Okay, let’s go!” Together, we ran over to the group. I glanced down at the chunky little boy, with his short black hair and gap-toothed smile. It would not have become me to use the term out loud, but he was kind of cute.
The rest of the afternoon at 12th Place passed in a blur. I remember playing another soccer game in the alley and getting chased around by a giggling little girl with a puppet on her hand. The books in my arms on the walk home hardly felt like a burden, and I laughed with the rest of the group as everyone recounted their experience. “God, thank you for this. Thank you that there was something there. Thank you for showing me that these people really are special.”