Friday, February 8, 2013

A Helping Hand

On a snowy day, much snowier than this one, I learned a lesson about people that I have never forgotten. Back then, the administrative offices were still located on Michigan Avenue. From the large window, a person could look over the snow-covered street to the snow-covered parking lot beyond. The snow had piled and drifted and piled and drifted. Everywhere was mush and muck, and everyone hugged their coats closer around them. And just a few feet to the east of where I sat were men beginning to line up for lunch at the Mission dining room, as they did every day. Sure, Michigan Avenue is the "Gateway to the Capitol," and looks straight toward the majesty of our beautiful capitol building itself, when it's not shrouded in fog or blowing snow. These men, however, weren't interested in the view. They cared about a hot meal and shelter from the elements. Some were chatting, as they do, while others were silent.

Through their midst came a woman in a rich suede coat, as black as her hair. She marched through the snowy sidewalk and the group of men gathered for a meal and knocked on the office door. I'm not sure if it had been her intention to reach us, I rather doubt it as she continued down the sidewalk after her short barrage at my general vicinity. Her complaint: we enabled "people like that" when they should be out working. She said slightly more than that but not much. I guess she felt compelled to voice her opinion before she moved on to her real business of the day. She was gone before I had even a chance to think of a response.

Down the sidewalk she went, her back a black shadow against the snow as she moved away from the Mission and the men waiting there. I almost wish she had turned. Or that she had come just a few minutes later. For as I watched her disappear, I saw those same men rush toward the street. Across the snow-covered street in that snow-covered parking lot was another woman, pushing vainly at her car. Stuck. And stuck good. She was fighting the elements and, to her rescue, came a troop of guys who had seen her trouble and come to offer a helping hand.

Altogether they worked at the car and dug at the snow with their gloved hands, until the little car was free and the woman they had helped continued on her way with a wave and a "thank you." And they returned to the Mission and went in the door to sign-up for a meal. We gave them a "helping hand," a hot meal and shelter from the elements. They knew that our help was a "gift" and they expressed their gratitude by offering a hand of help to someone else in need.

People helping people. Not "people like that." There is no such thing as "people like that"; There are just people. Because haven't we all needed "rescue" in our lives at one time or another? And isn't it offered again and again, every day, from the Hand of Grace?

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:22-24

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