The wrinkly old woman with kind eyes quietly handed me the “ticket”, saying nothing other than my number.
I knew, even though not a single word was expressed between the two of us, she felt my shame. She saw it.
I had stood in line in temperatures hovering around 15 degrees, clutching my IKEA bag, wondering if just owning a bag from that store might somehow disqualify me from the help we desperately need now.
I tried to hide the bag under my coat to the best of my ability.
After making my way through the line, I was directed toward a cluster of tables and instructed to fill out requested information on my card. I searched desperately for a table where I could be alone but settled for sitting across from a woman in a tattered coat and curls so tight on her head that I wondered if they might hurt. The expression on her face mirrored mine. No need to be social. Shortly thereafter a jovial couple joined us at our table and happily sipped cups of hot coffee, patiently waiting for their number to be called.
I kept my head low and filled out my card, desperately trying to avoid any social contact.
Another woman, likely in her 70’s but with a voice so booming, she quite possibly maintained the ability to wake coma patients, made a quick, half hearted announcement. It was the kind of thing someone says but the tone and delivery of the request betrayed her belief that no one would take the time to do as she requested.
“IF ANYONE HAS A PRAYER REQUEST, WRITE IT ON THE BACK OF YOUR CARD. PEOPLE WILL PRAY FOR YOU THIS WEEK.”
I remember thinking, “Honey, I need prayer from now until eternity.”
I sat thinking about her plea. I noticed not one single person writing on the back of their cards. Shamefully, this made me hesitate. I gingerly chose a pencil from directly in front of Tight Curls and wrote the following on the back of my number 37 card:
“Please pray for a lasting, affordable cure for Chronic Lyme Disease.”
I replaced my pencil from where I’d taken it and the woman with the tight curls looked at me and said, “You sure don’t look very warm, Sweetie.” I said nothing.
As I sat, waiting for number 37 to be called, I prayed, reflected, and observed.
Joy. There was joy in that place. We were not a group of people waiting for a handout. We were a group of people grateful that others had hearts to serve, respect to give, and love to share. And I was ashamed. Not because I was doing what needed to be done for my family. I was ashamed at my unwillingness to share my burdens with this group of people. Every person with a number in that room that night was experiencing the same need. It made no difference what may have caused each of them to find themselves in that building that night. I was scared and unwilling to give the only thing I have to offer at this point…love, hope, and prayer.
I hurried along with my bag into another room. In that room, I found warmth, respect, and people with sevant’s hearts. I filled my bag with food to feed my family and a gentleman walked me to my car.
I could not stop myself from explaining why I was there….the loss of the business, the disease, the inability to qualify for help anywhere else, the stress on my husband, my guilt. He interrupted me and said this: “Ma’am. There is no need for you to explain. We are here to help, no matter what your circumstances.”
On the drive home that night, I thought about the Apostle Peter.
John 13:8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
There is something about Peter’s response to the extraordinary action Jesus’ engaged in that evening. Peter responds with something akin to pride mixed with humiliation. As I thought about that, I couldn’t help but recall my own attitude as I waited to be served by a humble group of men and women who expected nothing from me in return. Why is it easier to serve than to accept being served? Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Needing help crucifies pride. It is an uncomfortable, humbling business.
Pride is a dangerous, sinister foe.
I want to abide with Jesus Christ. I made a promise to myself that my head will be held high, I will offer support and encouragement, and make no excuses for how I got to this point in my life. I will maintain an attitude of gratitude for all of the goodness and provision in my life.