Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stretched--delivering Thanksgiving baskets

This past Saturday many of us at Chain of Lakes church delivered Thanksgiving baskets to families in Anoka County. This was part of a program set up by C.E.A.P., a community-based charity that offers many types of assistance to families in need. As part of this program C.E.A.P. encouraged churches in Anoka County to give Thanksgiving baskets.

At Chain of Lakes we agreed to deliver baskets to twenty families. It was a bit of a stretch goal for us, but yesterday I was pleased to tell Tom Linman, the Family Services Manager in Blaine for C.E.A.P, that we were able to deliver all of the baskets.

Instead of having these families pick up their baskets at our office, we decided to deliver them to the families’ home. We did this so that those of us delivering the baskets would at least see the settings of these families in need.

Though it was a stretch for our new church to give out twenty baskets, the true stretching that took place was in the hearts of those of us who delivered the baskets.

We talked about this last night at our Chain of Lakes’ Steering Committee meeting. Those of us who delivered baskets shared some of our stories. We talked about how the traditional stereotype of people in poverty didn’t fit our experience. Many of the people to whom we delivered baskets are not immigrants or minorities. They are mainly Caucasian—working people who aren’t working or whose jobs aren’t paying enough to keep them from needing a Thanksgiving basket. We also talked about how the folks who are poor are invisible to the rest of us. They live on streets on which we rarely drive; they live in places that we can’t easily find. Their status is invisible.

It’s my experience that in talking about poverty it’s best to share stories. Oh sure I could recite numerous statistics, like the current national unemployment rate of 10.2 percent. But over time these numbers are just numbers. They don’t communicate the stories of people who are hurting—often hurting in an invisible way. When people become numbers they are too easy to push away.

I remember a woman to whom I delivered a basket this past Saturday. She had been in bed much of the day because of the flu. When she came to the door after I had repeatedly knocked on her door, I was touched by her eyes. The picture of her eyes has come to me often this past week. They were sunken and glazed over—tired. I know that she doesn’t have a car and she isn’t working. I don’t know the reasons for her family’s poverty, but I don’t need to know. What I do know is I’ve carried the picture of her eyes with me this week. They illustrated the harsh reality of her story.

Tomorrow most of us are going eat to excess on my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving. I know that at least twenty families in Anoka County have been given food to celebrate. And I know that many of us at Chain of Lakes had our hearts stretched as we delivered those baskets. As we sit down at the Thanksgiving table, we’ll sit with a stretched heart.

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