It's All I Remember
My cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number and debated whether or not I would answer it. It was the day before Easter. My wife, daughter and I were having dinner with my parents and I really didn't want to be bothered. But for some reason I still can't fathom, I answered it.
The woman on the other end identified herself as Elizabeth. She said that she and her husband lived on a fixed income and that they were almost out of food. It was near the end of the month so the timing was right for a request like that.
I'd like to say that my heart was filled with compassion for her at the moment, but it wasn't. In my role as the director of a ministry that works with homeless and poor people I get calls like this all the time, so I selfishly resented the intrusion on my family time and told her I would help her on Monday just to end the conversation as quickly as possible.
Come Monday morning, I walked into my office overwhelmed by my "do list" with almost everything on it screaming "URGENT!" at me. I rolled up my sleeves and dug in, hoping I could cross off at least a few things by the end of the day. Right about the time I found my "groove" on a writing project, my phone rang. It was Elizabeth. I let it roll over to voice mail and forgot about it for a few hours.
After lunch I checked my messages. Sure enough, Elizabeth asked me to call her back as soon as possible. Once again, I have to confess, my heart was not brimming over with compassion. All I could think about was how much I had to do and how I really didn't have the time to gather the food and drive ½ hour to Winchester to deliver it. By the time I did everything, I knew I would lose nearly 2 hours out of my day.
I wished I hadn't told her I would take her the food, but I said I would and, since I believe that integrity is a dying virtue in our culture, I was determined to make good on my word. I left work 20 minutes earlier than normal to take my daughter, Lindsey, to ballet practice so I would have time to get the food from the outreach pantry at my church. Having her help pack the bags saved a little time at least.
I dropped Lindsey off at ballet and headed to Winchester, hoping to arrive by 5 pm. When I got close to the address she gave me, I called Elizabeth. As I parked my truck along the street I could see an elderly woman standing at the door, waiting.
I grabbed the groceries thinking, "This is going to be quick." There was so much work to do.
Elizabeth held the door open as I approached. She was less than 5 feet tall and looked even smaller because of her bent shoulders. Her husband was sitting on the couch of their cluttered-but-clean living room. He looked at me and nodded, but said nothing.
I set the grocery bags down. Elizabeth thanked me and told me they had not eaten all day. Ah, there was the compassion, along with a healthy conviction about my misplaced priorities. Someone was hungry. I should have made getting food to them my first task of the day, not the last.
All of a sudden, I wasn't in so much of a hurry. We chatted awhile. After a few minutes her husband joined in the conversation, although he still didn't move. As we talked, I learned that on their meager income they not only had to care for themselves but their two grandchildren as well. The end of the month was always hard for them.
I didn't stay too long. I knew they were hungry.
For the life of me, I can't remember any of the other urgent tasks that faced me that day. All I remember is that I was blessed with the opportunity to take food to somebody who was hungry. I guess that's all that was worth remembering.