Written by: Jonathan Stufft
On this frigid day, I found myself reflecting on the following stories and just couldn’t help but think… these are my people!
Several years ago, “These are my People” was a popular country song by Rodney Adkins. After today’s touching interactions, this song kept coming back to my mind…
“These are my people,
This is where I come from,
We’re giving this life everything we’ve got, and then some!
It ain’t always pretty, but it’s real!
It’s the way we were made,
Wouldn’t have it any other way,
These are my people!”
Tina arrived early and found me so that she could talk. I could tell she had a seriousness in her eyes, and I was slightly nervous about what might be coming. I very quickly learned what she had to say. As tears welled in her eyes, she explained that the first time she had come to our produce distribution was in December. She lavished praise at how amazing it was that we are willing to help people like we do. Tears began to fall as she said just how much this food means to her in light of trying to manage after a job loss, caring for her blind mother, looking after her children, and having her food stamps cut back. She told just how many meals she was able to stretch with the food we shared.
She shivered as she talked in the cold morning air, and she kept the tears coming as she said, “Look, I’m shivering after a few minutes, and you all will be out here for hours doing this for others, and smiling the whole time.” Her words alone were affirmation that God was touching lives, but the actions that followed were amazing.
I told Tina to sit in her car to stay warm until we got our computers up and running, and said I would flag her down when we were ready to roll, so she could get her food and be on her way. She shivered in agreement and headed back to her car. A few minutes later, I noticed her car was gone! A few minutes after that, Tina approached me again as we bagged up food. She pulled me aside and explained that she had gone to McDonald’s and gotten breakfast sandwiches and coffee for the volunteers! I was shocked. Now the tears were mine. And I watched as Tina joyfully gave back to those who had given to her! We thanked her profusely, and then I asked her to promise to never spend her money on us again! The food was ours to give! We shared many laughs, smiles and hugs, and we were all touched by the love of God in those moments.
Jenn and her family have been regular volunteers with the outreach center for a long time now. Today, Jenn and her family rolled up on this frosty cold morning, willing to serve as usual. With five kids, and all the schedules that go with that, Jenn and her family often have to juggle their time to make being with us a priority… and they always do.
After about three hours in the cold, Jenn told me they had to take off and that she was sorry. I thanked her for taking the time to serve with us, but asked, with a rather puzzled look, why she was sorry. She said, “Because we have to leave and there’s still so much to do here!” I assured her we were just glad that her family was able to serve with us! She then reminded me that she had left early the last time they volunteered as well. Again, I assured her she did not have to be sorry! She then shared, “I had to leave last time to go to a women’s retreat. I was actually really grumpy about it. I had to shake the grumpiness because I was mad that I had to leave here!”
Mike is a tireless servant. Literally. He has no "off" button. He just goes. The greatest thing about Mike is that he is constantly on the move, but almost no one notices just how much he does! Even if you try to call him out for all that he contributes, he will simply keep moving and act like he doesn’t have time to hear it – his quiet way of dismissing unwanted attention for his never-ending efforts. Every single month, Mike loads up load after load of cardboard to haul it away to be recycled. Every single month, Mike loads up rotten and damaged produce and hauls it away (to a pig farm he found on his own!) so that it does not go to waste. Every single month, Mike hauls away all of our trash. Every single month, Mike brings his grocery bag racks (he had donated from Kroger!) and quietly bags up food alongside other volunteers.
Probably 90% of the people there don’t even see all that Mike does! He quietly buzzes around acting as if he is just doing very little, when in actuality, he is doing a ton! On occasion I will see Mike drive off with a load of cardboard, damaged produce, or trash, only to get a phone call like this a short while later:
“How many kids are there volunteering today?”
“Let me see… seven.”
That will be the end of the call. Moments later, without any discussion or announcement, I will see Mike quietly circulating again, handing out cups of hot chocolate to children as they work.
Our first encounter with Dorothy was not exactly what we had dreamed of having with our clients. After a previous produce distribution, I received a stream of very angry messages from Dorothy about how we had neglected her apartment complex in our deliveries. Through uncovering a series of misunderstandings, we got to the bottom of the problem and cleared things up, but it was all in writing, and left an uneasy feeling with us.
So, the following Sunday afternoon, Jeff called me and said we were going to her apartment to talk with her. She was shocked that we cared enough to show up and talk with her. All the tension melted, and we ended up leaving with smiles.
Jump forward to today, when Dorothy, who has no car, offered to help with deliveries, as long as she could be paired up with a driver! Jeff picked her up this morning, and she jumped in and began helping like a seasoned volunteer! On deliveries, she was a natural, and jumped right in talking with clients and getting them the food they needed. She worked tirelessly, and gratefully, all day! When I checked messages after getting home this afternoon, there was again a stream of messages from Dorothy… only this time, she was talking about how to meet the needs of others, how she enjoyed serving, and how God is chasing her down!
These are my people. They are giving this life everything they’ve got and then some. They are real. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!