Two Dinners

I volunteer at a shelter for homeless people two nights per week, helping with the evening meal. I do pretty much the same things there I do with my Mormon priesthood on such occasions, i.e. set up tables and chairs and take them down again. The events I describe in this post took place last week on consecutive evenings.

Wednesday: I notice on the schedule that an LDS ward from the suburbs is scheduled to furnish the dinner tonight. Right on time, three women from the Relief Society arrive, and they are like the two or three dozen women in any ward who make things happen: efficient, capable, and hard-working. They have done this before, and they each know what to do to get the meal ready on time. They are serving chili dogs, so one sister sets a big pan of water on to boil to heat the hot dogs, another starts heating the chili, and I help the third woman fill disposable cups with water. The guests at the shelter start lining up for chow, and after a blessing, the production line starts. Two hot dogs in buns are arranged on each plate, then a ladle full of chili is poured over it all. The guest then moves down the line and helps himself to a baggie of chips, and individual size can of fruit cocktail, and a baggie of sandwich creme style cookies for dessert. They told me that they budget less than a dollar per meal, and I believe them. There are extra hot dogs left over, so they will go home to the freezer until next month, when it’s their turn again. They also told me that they turn in their receipts to the bishop and he reimburses them out of the fast offering fund, which seems like a good arrangement. The only complaint I hear from the guests is that there are no second helpings, and that seems quite petty to me, at first. But upon reflection, many of those people probably had not had lunch, and when you don’t have a refrigerator or pantry, the feeling of having one’s belly full probably takes on more importance.

All in all, our people did an adequate job of serving an acceptable meal. They did it efficiently, quickly, and frugally, and they were cleaned up and out the door, on their way back home before any of the guests were finished eating.

Thursday: The church providing tonight’s meal is Faith Pentecostal. They show up with twenty people, all wearing t-shirts bearing their slogan: “We serve with joy!” They serve meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans cooked with ham hocks and chunks of onion, cornbread, and tumblers of iced tea to drink. Dessert is a choice of chocolate cake or lemon cake, and there are seconds on everything but dessert. Rather than having the guests queue up, they have them find a seat at the table and wait to be served. The church people bring their plates to them (“Just like in a restaurant!”, I hear a guest say), and as they place the food in front of the guest, they say something like “Enjoy your meal, brother!” or “Bon Appetit, sir!” I also notice that they often touch the guests on the back, shoulder, or arm, and that is really saying something, given that most of the shelter’s clients have that distinctive funk which comes from having lived in the same clothing day and night for a week. When all the guests are served, the folks from Faith Pentecostal makes themselves plates and then go sit among the people they have just served, enjoying a common meal with them, and occasionally jumping up to get their neighbor another piece of meat loaf or corn bread. They also provided two enormous pans of baked spaghetti, to be served the next day for lunch.

They brought a guitar with them and when everyone is finished eating, they do some praise worship. Most of the songs are unfamiliar to me, but many of the guests appear to know them, and sing along.

What can take away my sins?
Nothing but the love of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the love of Jesus!

For the last song, they sing “This Little Light of Mine”, and by the final verse, most of the people in the dining hall are standing and singing.

I’m gonna shine my light both far and near,
I’m gonna shine my light and have no fear.
In every dark corner that I find
I’m gonna let my little light shine.

Comments

  1. I fear I have this same approach to service sometimes. I may be able to say I have helped the poor and the needy, but I don’t know that I could say I have “mourned with those that mourn.” Thanks for this poignant reminder.

  2. devastating

  3. Yes, very nice–efficiency too easily crowds out other virtues, esp. in our busy lives.

  4. This post weighs heavily on me. As an organization, the Church does many large-scale good deeds to help those in need around the world — but the same organizational efficiency that makes those programs effective also often insulates members from the physicality and immediacy of acts of compassion, especially towards those not of our faith community.

    Our efficiency has done much quantifiable good. But I fear it has changed our hearts as well, and not for the better.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    A fascinating contrast.

  6. Our stake (and I think many wards around the country) are involved with the Family Promise program, which gets multi-denominational faiths together to provide meals, housing, and company for homeless families. It has been a great success in our area, and the members do just what you described above for the Baptists (sans iced tea and t-shirts). They bring in home-cooked meals, spend time with them in the evenings, and stay overnight in case of emergencies. It not only helps us get away from the dutiful “arm’s length” service to the poor illustrated above, but also gives us a chance to provide this service together with other fellow Christians. Anyone else had experience with this program? I’ve heard it’s more prevalent on the East coast.

  7. Three women vs 20. As usual it was 3 women that are part of the dozen that make the ward run. I have seen time and again church wards function because a small percentage of the women make sure everything gets done. If the lds church had paid clergy and janitors and child care workers oh and about a hundred other things many other churches had, then we could have 20 people show up as well to help. Those women proably rushed home to take care of their own families before heading out again to teach cub scouts or YW or take dinner to someone else, or plan the Easter recital or ward get together. We provide an extreme amount of service. More service than any other church I have ever seen, we just provide it to our own members. After we have fufilled the multiple callings we have there is little time left over for those outside of ones ward when all is said and done. Who’s fault is that? Perhaps we could use the missionaries in a service capacity vs having them track endlessly? I wish we could be more like the 20.

  8. Mark you couldn’t be more right that a full belly makes a real big difference when you aren’t really sure when or if the next meal is going to come.

    Our Sisters did the job, but the others exemplified the notion that God loves a cheerful giver. We have it within us to do these same things, I just think we have unfortunately been taken over by some awful creeping notion that people who are so poverty stricken must have done something to make it so. At least that seems to be a prevailing thought I have seen.

  9. very poignant, and I fear that you left off the part where the lds group was sure to send a pr blast to the local media about their good works whereas the other group joyously served and did so quietly.

  10. What’s missing is what each group did with the rest of their week., month, and year. This is why we’re told not to judge; we’re really bad at it.

  11. I’m glad for the first sisters service but you’re right we should serve with more joy and second helpings, when we do serve. I’m still glad of and in awe of the first sisters service, even if it was more regimented and efficient and seeingly with less joy than the second because it’s more than I’m doing currently.

  12. it's a series of tubes says:

    Judging by this post and comments, no good deed goes unpunished.

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    In all fairness, though, the LDS dinner sounds exactly as if it had been served by the women in the Lutheran church of my youth. This sounds like a function of WASP culture as much as anything else. I doubt the Episcopalians bring guitars on their night at the shelter, either.

  14. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    A few Thanksgivings ago in a Midwestern college town, our ward brought the fixings and served up the dinner at a local non-denominational kitchen. Maybe the holiday spirit was bringing out our best relative to other times in the year, but nearly a dozen YM/YW pitched in and other full families, including mine, were more than enough to not only serve efficiently, but personally as we enjoyed the dinner with them at the tables. Pie was eaten, carols were sung, hearts were gladdened, and chocolate milk was imbibed.

    Your experience may well be more typical, and certainly rings true, but maybe we’re not quite so clinical after all. And while it’s another exceptional example, I have to think that our full-time missionaries take a pretty deep dive out of their comfort zone and sing/eat/pray/ect with every dang person they can find.

    (We’re no longer there, but I have to think that the social outreach of Bible-belt college towns to be among the best anywhere. You put a bunch of liberally-minded/academic outreach groups in a close footprint with a hundred churches, and you can cover a lot of ground.)

  15. marginalizedmormon says:

    2 Corinthians 13:5 actually uses the phrase “examine yourselves”. I know there are a few things in the Book of Mormon as well about looking at yourself to see how you are doing, but I can’t find them.
    It’s interesting to see the various responses; some apologize for the church and its attendant culture; others admit that there might be room for improvement and that there might be much good found among other Christians.

    Thank you for the essay. Not long ago someone in our ward wanted to make a really nice, fresh salad for a supper that all the churches put on (taking turns) at a large Christian church in our community. This person wanted to do this, because it had come to her attention that a member of the homeless community had been a gourmet cook and, until he lost his car (serious health problems made him unable to work after medical bills for a loved one had bankrupted him and lost him his home)–

    he had carried a wok in his trunk. He would wander into grocery stores and stand over the produce and long for it, but he had no refrigerator.

    Learning of this, a local sister wanted to make a huge salad for him, but others in the RS laughed her down or scolded her for having the audacity to think that anyone indigent might want a salad; they needed ham and potatoes and canned vegetables, by golly. Finally, the bishop took the salad for her, and those who were there had to accept it. Did it get served to anyone who wanted something fresh? Who knows?

  16. Mark, you are a good and Saintly man in every good sense. The people at that soup kitchen are fortunate for your service.

    I find myself caught between two conflicting responses to your post. The first is a happy one, happy at the reminder of the goodness of Christ in the lives of these Pentecostals and in their encounters with the diners at the soup kitchen. Although I find guitar hymns and southern cooking too rich for my own personal palate, I am delighted by the goodness and kindness that comes through in their service. And I’m delighted by your ongoing service and stewardship there. Many people have been blessed by your unflagging and enthusiastic and flavorful service.

    The second is sadness that no matter how hard we try there will always be some way that we fall short and those failings will have ramifications, whether in terms of real pain to people we have failed to fully serve or the knowledge that others see clearly the ways we have fallen short. It feels overwhelming sometimes. As someone who is chronically pushed to near breaking in terms of responsibilities/obligations/commitments, I want to cheer for those good LDS women who actually showed up and fed the hungry before they rushed off to put out fires at home or work on other projects or cook dinner for their own families or work in young women’s or whatever else is likely calling them onward, ever onward. I cringe a little that they might become an object lesson in letter-of-the-law service despite their sacrifice of time and energy and feel sad knowing that I am often judged in similar terms when I am forced to choose between two or more important activities. And I worry that I–hopelessly mired in pedantry most of the time and always awkward socially–have too few gifts to offer the Lord and the children of God. I am terrible with small talk, sing like a distressed animal whistle, and am nauseated by the smell of hot dogs. I realize too, in the never-ending webs of being-unworthy-of-Christ, that this second response is itself a kind of criticism of a post written with all love and goodness by a man who is my spiritual superior by at least an order of magnitude. And I mourn the criticism implicit in this second response to a post celebrating the presence of the Christ in simple acts of community.

    How do we find the balance between seeing and loving good things and seeing and loving good people even when the distance between the two is often vast? I struggle with it continually and suspect that I can only pray that there will be grace enough for me to move slowly closer to that balance.

  17. Every word smb said. Every. Word.

    This post is devastating for all those reasons- the gift of service and kindness from both examples, the dangers of institutionalized and sanitized box-checking, the willingness to truly touch another fallen soul, the falling short, always short, in being a human being, and the vast distance between what we are and our aspirations. It makes me keenly aware of my dire need for grace.

  18. What makes the budget so small and the distance between people so great in the LDS version?

  19. As one of the 3 overworked women of my ward (actually there’s more like 6 or 7 in our area), I’m with Dax – I wish I could do more, but between my three callings and periodically [read: every other week] filling in for other people who are either unable or unwilling to do their own callings, plus supporting my husband in his own 3 callings, working full-time and raising small children, it would be unhealthy to attempt more. They say if you want something done, give it to someone busy, but sadly most of the time it’ll get done with maximum efficiency like everything else she does. I wish I had a clever solution to offer, maybe one full of witty feminist caveats that included women holding the priesthood and men waiting tables, but I’m too burned out to think of one at the moment.

  20. I honestly think if our people are burnt out from the other areas they serve, it might be better and healthier to just learn to say “no” when asked to take on yet another project or task. If those three women had opted out of the soup-kitchen service, would there have been other groups who could have stepped up? Is it better to serve distantly and perhaps begrudgingly, or to decline and say “I cannot do more.”?

  21. amen Tracy M. .

    How many bench-warmers would jump at the chance to serve but so often are overlooked. I often remark how you can look at any ward and there is typically a nucleus of 10 people who play musical chairs with the ‘heavy’ callings – what about our community is so adverse to reaching deeper and getting more people to carry some of the service/leadership burdens? Is it fear that they won’t do it as good as if we did it ourselves? Or might it be fear that they will do it differently and yet still wonderfully? Or fear that they won’t do it? I don’t know why that reality persists but it would be healthy to find ways of broader involvement and lessen the martyrdom that unfortunately can be a trailing indicator of an over-busy individuals

  22. One thing that I am wondering (perhaps this makes me a bit cynical) is whether Faith Pentecostal will show up week after week with the same degree of fervor, energy and collection, good eats, musical accompaniment. Whether they do it once or many times, my hat is off to them – but it would be interesting to track the two ‘teams’ over a long period of time (without letting them know such a thing is going on) and see how they do, how consistent they are, whether they make improvements or dwindle in their efforts, etc.

    With even this much information, there are things to learn. No doubt. I just wonder if we would need more time to get the whole story, so to speak.

  23. I meant to say “collection of good eats” …

  24. Yeah, what Sam said. He _is_ a terrible singer ;)

  25. small s steve says:

    We can see a clear distinction between the service of the Mormons and the Faith Pentacostals in the given example. Perhaps that distinction is erased in the mind of God when he sees comprehensively into the mind and heart, and judges both sacrifices equally worthy.

    sss

  26. It didn’t sound like the LDS women did it grudgingly, he said “efficiently.” And when my efficient efforts aren’t going to be good enough, then I do say “no.” All that reaching deeper and asking the bench warmers to serve? They’re the reason I’m playing the organ and/or teaching primary and/or chaperoning scout field trips 4-5 times per month. You take a risk on your shaky players and they’re going to drop the ball once in a while, it happens. Frequently, in my ward’s case.

    It might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. That’s just how it is. If you’re going to ask Mormons to do something, it’s usually going to trickle down to the busiest members of the ward, at which point it’s going to get done as efficiently as possible because they’re already doing everything else too. We do serve at a high level for extended periods of time rather than putting out sporadic bursts of energetic, sincere compassionate service – and in good wards, you’ll see those once in a while too – but still, we have to be efficient to get it all done.

  27. We are a church of activities, a church of procedures and check lists and in all the activity we often miss the main point; Be still and know that I am God. Namaste, the divine within me acknowledges and bows to the divine within you. Jesus washed people’s feet. Do you think he was counting or checking those washes off a list?

    In my experience interactions with the needy have been some of the most jarringly real encounters in my life but you must be present in the present to experience them.

    Counting and refreezing hot dogs kind of misses the point of the whole thing, doesn’t it?

  28. Or might it be fear that they will do it differently and yet still wonderfully? Or fear that they won’t do it? I don’t know why that reality persists but it would be healthy to find ways of broader involvement and lessen the martyrdom that unfortunately can be a trailing indicator of an over-busy individuals

    http://goo.gl/yz3Ur0

  29. I get a small-hearted, super-defensive reaction to this piece. I so identify with the RS sisters, who no doubt had to get home to put their kids to bed. The last thing we need is to up the ante for “worthy” service from LDS sisters who are already prone to perfectionism — fancy desserts, gourmet cooking are just really, truly not necessary. Simple food, honest and plain service, it’s enough. It’s enough.

  30. Wait, Mormons weren’t as charismatic as Pentecostals????? Call the cops!

  31. All I know is that the three LDS ladies and the 20 Pentecostals certainly did more than I did tonight. That’s convicting enough.

  32. Every gift is a good gift – if there is even a small portion of love expressed or felt by the giver, the reciever, or both. Where love is, there God is also.

    Thank you for this wonderful and thought-provoking post.

  33. All I know is that the three LDS ladies and the 20 Pentecostals certainly did more than I did tonight.

    This.

    Thanks for this post, Mark. I’ve been trying to decide exactly what I can do this year to serve more of the people who need it the most, and I had a bit of an epiphany as I read this post. I appreciate it when God speaks to his children through his children.

  34. Well there ya go, it’s the thought that counts! The rest is just fluff!

  35. This is an isolated example of selection bias. The other church is made up of a certain range of personality types who sought out that church on purpose. The LDS ward in question is a geographical grouping and likely much more diverse in terms of personal temperaments.

  36. Jeffc/TracyM – “nucleus of 10 people who play musical chairs with the ‘heavy’ callings” is too often the case and we kick up dust and complain that we can’t see. At work, we don’t promote a manager who hasn’t built a team behind them to fill their spot. Church is obviously different, but we don’t spend much time developing people around us for callings. We are very isolate about our individual calling experience. It takes an experienced, trusting leader to let someone learn to do it, do it differently or partially “fail” while learning. We expect people to be independent and privately learn all from the spirit.
    We, in my ward now, inconsistently worry about calling a new convert to teach RS because she might teach false doctrine, but in truth, we get little bits of false doctrine constantly from the lifelong member we have currently teaching. The class is very experienced and wouldn’t allow the conversation to get too out of hand. The concern leads to a “musical chair” name for consideration. Her name is removed from the list of considerations to pray about.
    It’s hard to be self-aware of this mistake and we burn people out, deprive people of opportunity and accuse other’s motives. It’s a tough issue. Some great comments here. Nice post.

  37. This article embarrasses me. I used to care so much.

    We used to do a monthly meal for our local homeless shelter. Not the congregation — just us. As a family. We didn’t have a lot of money. We were a young family with young children. I would watch chicken prices and buy when it was on sale. Teriyaki chicken, a huge salad, rice with teriyaki sauce, 12 dozen homemade rolls, and homemade cookies or pie for dessert.

    It didn’t cost much and it fed 60-70 people .. And they could come back for seconds. They were so happy to not have spaghetti, hot dogs, or cake.

    When I have volunteered through the church, I show up with my assignment. I haven’t put as much personal effort into it as I did when it was our idea, our family, our personal service to the community. I check off my assignment and move on to the next.

    On this same topic ..

    A few weeks ago, we had a beggar in the church parking lot. Someone ran him off. THAT bothers me too.

  38. Mark, thank you so much, this is an absolutely beautiful post. Your description of the Pentecostal group brought tears to my eyes. It also perfectly segues into a discussion Sonny and I had yesterday. We, also, have noticed that many LDS “service opportunities” involve no real contact with the people we serve. We do seem to be most comfortable serving from the comfort and familiarity of our own ward building. And while this is lovely and a worthy way to serve (and for some, the only real choice), it lacks, as Dave Dixon said in the first comment, “mourning with those who mourn”. Since we moved here 3ish years ago, Sonny and I have been taking every opportunity to connect wth local groups performing service, trying to hook up with something that is more hands-on (and consistent). It’s been slow-going, I am finding that most of the local LDS church leadership aren’t real dialed-in to local needs (with the exception of one close friend who is working, tho more at a distance, with the food kitchens). But most things, to be doable, really require a group effort, and it has been difficult to find that kind of involvement from other members here. (So we do our little bit by ourselves, helping a neighbor who is in a crisis with yard clean up, taking extra eggs to families in the ward who are hungry, etc.). But there is so much we could do on a local level, especially if we involved the youth with the adults. Even the sr. Primary kids could help! In the meanwhile, we are looking set attaching ourselves as “visitors” with one of the service organizations or church groups.

    I pray that people will overcome their distance and journey out into their communities and love “hands on.” Every time my funny neighbor hugs me, I feel the Spirit so strongly saying “It matters.”

  39. mommy may I says:

    Mary and Martha, different gifts and offerings but both were loved by the lord.

  40. Given the overextension so many Mormons experience, in part because of our lay ministry, I wonder if there’s a way to retain our efficiency when it comes to food preparation and service but borrow a little humanity from the approach of our Pentacostal brothers and sisters.

  41. small s steve says:

    Maybe in this instance the Pentacostal’s response was more meaningful, more charitable, more Christ-like. Maybe a Mormon’s response in a different instance is more meaningful, more charitable, more Christ-like. I hope our God is one who will look at us holistically and not judge us based on one instance. To me the OP seems to pass judgment based on one situation.

    sss

  42. I keep coming back to the fact that each of them did more than I did that night.

    There are a host of ancillary issues this piece can and does bring up- and they might be important ideas and concerns that need addressing. But for the sake of here, now… the bottom line is, I wasn’t there. Beam, meet mote.

  43. I’m probably repeating something that’s already been said. Oh well. . . These two dinners illustrate two approaches to meeting a need: task-oriented and relationship-oriented. The first effectively meets the physiological need of these members of our community. Well done, sisters. The second expands to meet the psychological/social needs also. Well done there too.

    The problem with the task oriented approach is it tends to create “us” and “them.” We perform a task for them. We are over here, serving. They are over there, eating. The purpose is not connection. The purpose is to feed the hungry.

    The relationship-focused approach dissolves the “us” and “them.” In this way, we are reunited with our brothers and sisters on the planet. So, it’s not just the needy who miss out on the joy that comes from connection between souls. It’s the meal-bringers too.

  44. Given the whole being reared in the church is in a culture of “us” and “them”, is it so surprising? It’s incredibly difficult to step outside those barriers we’ve grown up with, for me at any rate…

  45. Lack of food makes you hungry, but lack of choice or voice robs you of dignity.

    Maybe it’s time to get data-driven? Have the line branch in two: left for chili dogs, right for lasagna. Serve portion sizes such that each direction costs the same (including labor!). Tell the clients (for that is who they are) what the meals cost (again, including labor! Volunteer time is valuable and the clients should know that). Ask each whether she or he would prefer twice as much food half as often, and act on the results. Some are mentally ill and might not act in their self interest, but collectively they can effectively self-advocate. Maybe even issue denominated vouchers at the front of the line (so bullies don’t steal them and there is no black market) and let each buy whatever combination of food they prefer. Ask them to vote on what kinds (if any) lunch music they prefer, and rotate through a couple genres. Volunteers get a vote too and should get to pick some fraction of the time.

    Most importantly, be sure to survey afterwards to see if the above ideas are any good. After all, I’m not the one in line serving or eating, so my opinions don’t count, theirs do.

  46. And yet, there is a thriving business of street beggars shipped in from neighboring states, even as far as California and Texas, to beg in Utah because it is so lucrative.

    The analogy would have been so much more powerful if it hadn’t been used as a dig at the Mormons.

  47. ZDEve, your comment confuses me. I’ve experienced many a crisis, and if someone shows up at the door willing to help, the last thing I’m going to do is ponder if they’re motivated by pride. But maybe we have different definitions of crisis.

  48. “a thriving business of street beggars”

    Yes I am sure they are living the sweet life. I hope you aren’t giving any money to them! That would be terrible. Also, you’re repugnant.

  49. PS I agree with your last sentence.

  50. Who is shipping street beggars in? Is there a hidden cabal that picks up homeless folks and transports them, like a secret combination? And how is this a business that can thrive? Where is the capitol in moving homeless folks around? I assume if they could pay for interstate transit, they might also buy food? I’m baffled by that idea.

  51. p.s. I don’t think it was a dig at the Mormons. Mark was very careful to try and accurately portray both experiences, then let the commenters extrapolate what they will. We _know_ this is kind of disconnect is something of an issue for us- he just shined a light on recent, real experience.

  52. Tracy someone just mentioned to me that when he lived in Vegas the city (cops?) Would give homeless people bus tickets to other states. I’ve heard of cities in socal bussing homeless to neighboring towns. Don’t know how accurate that information is, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Homeless populations cost cities a lot of money–either from arresting them/jail time, or time spent in hospitals. Some states/cities/counties are figuring out that its cheaper just to provide them homes, and Utah is one of them–theres been a lot of press lately about Utah doing so. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that cities outside of Utah are encouraging their homeless to come here.

  53. Mark what was your point in writing this?

  54. When providing a meal, clothing, or service to someone in need, a good way to look at it is what would the Savior do and what would I do for the Savior?

    The Savior provided a humble meal. But if the Savior was coming over for dinner what would you cook? If it’s hotdogs and chilli, then spot on I guess. If you’d make a large, impressive meal then you’d be a hypocrite to provide anything less to “the least”. I have a feeling if Pres Monson was coming over for dinner those sisters would have done a better job.

    All that being said, as is pointed out they are juggling a lot of service so while no rebuke would be needed, a gentle reminder about the underlying doctrine would be appropriate. Still its interesting that if the Savior were the one providing the meal it would have been more humble than hot dogs and chilli.

  55. What I love most about this post was Mark’s consistent presence at the shelter. What a blessing to the shelter and the ever-shifting rotation of volunteers! As a teacher, I get my very best ideas by stealing the best of what I have witnessed, and Mark is now passing some solid serviceable ideas on to us.

  56. Open mouth, insert bun, dog and chili – NEXT! serves only the basest mortal need of hunger all but ignoring the human and spirit presence of the guests (oops, I mean beggars). You might as well be shining shoes with no one in them! If it is better to give than receive then it is only serving the basest need to give as well. How can we minimally complete the mission to the letter of the law? Seems to be driving this. This is the problem with laws, they don’t often represent gospel principals very well, yet laws and bright-line rules are so all about LDS culture and religion. Hedgehog wrote; …a culture of “us” and “them”… Yes, I think this is a very important point and something that needs to change for the church to become more Christlike.

  57. “a thriving business of street beggars shipped in from neighboring states, even as far as California and Texas, to beg in Utah because it is so lucrative.”

    I’m going to be anonymous for this comment for soon-to-be obvious reasons, but I can speak authoriatively on this subject. I was a therapist for many years in Salt Lake City for Valley Mental Health, which is an organization that serves under- and unfunded people with mental illnesses, including a large population of homeless. Too many of my clients were from cities and states like Las Vegas and Minnesota. These clients had been in the mental health system for many years, and due to changes in funding, received what we like to call “Greyhound therapy.” I received one client from a far-off state who had never been in Utah, knew no one in Utah, but was nevertheless shipped to Utah simply because his case manager told him, “You cannot stay here anymore. There are no funds for you, and your family is unable/unwilling to care for you. Where would you like to go?” The client had happy memories of a childhood watching Donny & Marie, and thought Utah would be nice. The case manager packed up his stuff in a garbage bag, gave him a week’s supply of meds and $100 and loaded him on a Greyhound bus. The case manager did call us to let us know to expect him and faxed all of his records. A day after the client was scheduled to arrive, he did, on the wrong bus, off his meds, crazy as a jaybird, having been beaten and robbed of all his stuff including the $100 and his meds. We took him in, of course.

    Now, as to street begging being a “thriving business” or being “lucrative,” having actually known “street beggars,” I know that of course, some are fakers, but enough are really in need. We aren’t asked to judge who is deserving of our generosity, we know that God will hold accountable those who misuse their funds, just as he will hold us accountable for what we’ve received.

  58. Howard,

    That’s a pretty cynical view of what these three women did, and a pretty cynical view of church culture. While there are always areas we individuals and the church can change (sometimes major changes), there are some much more charitable and insightful comments above that provoke some good introspection. We all have vast room for improvement, and one of those areas many Bloggernacle participants could work on might be “good faith assumptions even when offering critiques of church members and practices.” I’m glad for the comments that show a deeper than cursory acknowledgement that a significant LDS really are doing their best and have good motives.

    Compared to the ideal, we all fall far short. Compared with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, I really don’t think much of the breast-beating we often do here on the Bloggernacle is warranted.

    One of my critiques of Mormon culture? Too many of us don’t give ourselves and our fellow saints enough credit.

  59. Lorin,
    Yes I often offer the cynical view to offset some of the Pollyanna denial that is so prevalent through out LDS culture. The 13th article eventually talks about seeking after virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy but it is often forgotten that it begins with We believe in being honest, true… and Pollyanna denial is anything but truthful.

  60. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

    And unto one he gave twenty talents, to another three; to every woman/man according to his/her several ability; and straightway took his journey.

    Then he that had received the twenty talents went and traded with the same, and made them other twenty talents.

    And likewise she that had received three, she also gained other three.

    After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

    And so he that had received twenty talents came and brought other twenty talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me twenty talents: behold, I have gained beside them twenty talents more.

    His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    She also that had received three talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me three talents: behold, I have gained three other talents beside them.

    Her lord said unto her, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

  61. Thank you for this post Mark.

    It is so effective because as an active Mormon, former bishop yourself, with lots of experience in these matters, this is, of course, not a dig at Mormons. For that very reason, we can see the contrast between attitudes of service in this one anecdote. Let us pray that we as a people can develop an attitude of love for the poor and needy that is a little less clinical and minimal and more effulgent like that of the Pentecostals.

    Let us as a people cease to grind the face of the poor by casting aspersions as to syndicates of beggars shipped in from out of state to live the high life on the freezing streets of Salt Lake City and instead succor them in their necessity. Let us give and help without strings attached, for the pure sake of the service and their human dignity.

  62. For me the appropriate response to this was quiet introspection–neither going on the defensive or the offensive. Examining myself for where I have been both of those examples or none at all. Thank you for sharing your experience, Mark. And ditto to everything Tracy M said.

  63. This is a propos nothing, but I like to think Jesus would enjoy a good chili dog.

    As others have pointed out, there’s some information missing from this story. We don’t know what else these three RS ladies had to do that evening, what else they had to do for the rest of the week. If the dinner they provided was less than what it ought to have been, I’m inclined to blame these three sisters least. And I don’t think Mark was directing any blame in that direction. But there’s even more missing information: Whose idea was it for the ward to provide dinner at the homeless shelter once a month? Who decided the budget would be less than a dollar per meal? How much money does this particular ward have? How much money do they spend on activities for themselves? How many active, contributing (in time and/or money) members do they have?

    It seems like most wards have it in them to put on at least one big production per year. Perhaps providing a Pentecostal-style meal monthly is too ambitious for some, given their limited resources. However, if ministering to the needy is a priority for us as church members, we should probably make it a priority not only to provide a meal (which may be hot dogs and fruit cocktail) but to provide some human interaction. As someone else up-thread mentioned (sorry, I can’t find the comment now), if the ward had to provide a meal for Thomas S. Monson, it would probably look a little different than this meal for the homeless. Perhaps Pres. Monson would enjoy a chili dog too, but surely the ward members would do more than just hand him a plate and be on their way. Probably Pres. Monson would understand if a woman had to get home and feed her family, but I reckon someone else could carve some time out of their busy schedule to chat with him a bit. If we had to feed Pres. Monson and his entourage every month, maybe some folks would get tired and burned out, but I just have this feeling that we wouldn’t lack for new crops of volunteers.

  64. I didn’t read all the comments. Someone said “devastating.” I disagree with that assessment. For every anecdote like this, we can come up with a counter-anecdote describing the “cheerful” service of members of our church during disaster cleanup, food delivery, or even helping someone who needs it cross the street. And, as some have stated, who is to say that the three Mormon women did not have very positive personal interactions that were not seen by the author. All who served should be celebrated. And if the point of this post is to criticize the methods of Mormon service, it would do well to do a broader sweep of all the service that our good people provide, its impact, and the smiling faces that accompany it. I’m not certain that is the point despite the commenters’ inferences.

    I do have kids learning to play the guitar. Hopefully that will help.

  65. marginalizedmormon says:

    In case anyone wants to read what I have to say, I’m going to add something.

    We are not the only church with volunteers or even a lay ministry. I am aware of a number of churches where the pastor has a full-time job and ministers to the church.

    One of the things that we LDS don’t understand about other churches is that some of them (not all) don’t try to do as much on Sunday as we do. Some of them really keep their worship services simple. They don’t have complicated Primary and YW and YM programs, and often they don’t try to handle an entire scout troop in one congregation.

    We LDS think we have to do “it all”, and yes, there is a very high burn out among us. Often even those who are being ‘served’ are burned out by having to be involved so much and so often.

    When the church was first established there were so Sunday Schools, Primaries, YM, YW; there was a Relief Society for the express purpose of serving. All these other things came later and were seen as an unquestioned ‘good’. But were they, are they, really?

    How much does a primary teacher serve when he/she is exhausted and his/her class just wants to go home and eat or sleep? We push people to spend more time in church than many other churches, and to what end? Many of our young people grow tired of Sunday School and YW and YM–

    and some of them simply leave. Over-churching could be a bigger problem among LDS than any other people.

    Before experiencing health problems (I am past middle age) that made it such that I would never be able to ‘serve’ as I once did (five callings at a time at one point; always more than one for decades)–

    I remember crying out to the Lord, “why does it have to be like this?”–

    and always there was some cheerful soul at church who would tell me that we were saving souls. And that it would necessarily be more sacrifice to be more righteous, i.e., LDS and active. Sometimes I think those who have one worship service (one hour long) on Sunday have figured out something we haven’t yet.

    How many times I felt that I had to ‘save’ the programs of an entire ward or branch on my own, but I was taught that by leaders, teachers and parents.

  66. marginalizedmormon says:

    sorry; typo–

    in the fifth paragraph:

    it should read “no”, not “so”–

  67. small s steve says:

    Perhaps a future blog post can compare/contrast the experiences people have at the Mormon bishop’s storehouse vs. other faith denominations’ bishop’s storehouses.

  68. tired-from-nothing says:

    A fist just closed around my perfectionist heart. Another brilliant reminder that even if I muster the courage and love to render service, it will never be good enough.

  69. Mark Brown says:

    Thank you for your comments, everyone. I am still quite unsettled about this experience, and the range of your responses reflects my own ambivalence.

    Let me first say that I am very proud of the way our church uses the system of fast offerings and bishop’s storehouses to assist our own needy. It is a unique approach, and it is both ingenious and inspired. I am also intensely, bust-my-buttons proud of the way LDS people show up for disaster relief efforts. When you need 3,000 people on short notice to assist in cleanup from Hurricane Sandy, the Mormons should be your first call. And it pleases me that several commenters offered counter-examples, where we went the extra mile in our service. So, props to us.

    I have heard several different public affairs people say that while we are great at responding to large, one-off service events, we are sometimes not so great at committing to the mundane, day-to-day, month after month needs outside of our own wards and stakes. I am not blaming the women in this example — far from it, they deserve credit for even showing up on a weeknight, and I don’t blame them for hurrying away ASAP. They probably had to get home to feed their own families chili dogs, then rush off to Mutual, or music lessons, or whatever else is going on in their lives. My guess is that a decision was made on a stake level to participate in this service opportunity, and since it involved food, it got delegated to the RS (of course!), and they were given some budget parameters and guidelines. To the extent there is a failing, it is systemic, and it is on all of us.

    And yeah, I think there is some room for improvement here. Should it bother us to get schooled by somebody else about something we think we are good at? As I said, we performed service that was both adequate and acceptable, and we showcased the Mormon virtues of efficiency and frugality. So why do we care if somebody else served better food or stuck around to sing afterwards?

    Here’s why. While we usually do a good job of taking care of our own, we often do not know how to show love to others who are unlike us, or who we think are unlike us. In this sense, our insularity hurts us. And you might disagree, but I think there is good reason to think that we struggle to be charitable to folks whose misfortune seems avoidable to us — alcoholics, people who have babies outside of marriage, high school dropouts, and so on. So I think there is some subtle judging going on, and even though it is subtle, it is no less nasty. Think about it. The (male) stake leader who set the budget at a buck per meal isn’t trying to impress anybody. Next time visiting authorities come to stake conference and the stake serves them a Saturday evening meal, do you think it will be chili dogs? And even though we are all too busy, when the stake asks for volunteers to help serve the visiting authorities, there will be no shortage of people willing to help. We won’t make Elder So and So stand in line holding a paper plate. And when we buy groceries to take meals in to a new mother in the ward, do we shop for hot dog buns, chips, and cookies at the day-old store?

    When we consider those questions in light of the New Testament teachings about “the least of these” and “Who is my neighbor?”, the answers can be discomfiting. And I think they should be. If you think that is a dig at Mormons, or an attempt to show Mormonism in a negative light, I don’t know what to say to you.

  70. “People have dreams. People want to be successful in life. They want to have clean houses. They want to have clean clothes, and they want to be treated with respect.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/358499/the-long-road-back-from-homelessness/

  71. Wow, not just a jab at how poorly Mormons do charity, but an additional jab how it’s the fault of male leadership. I know it’s a stretch, but could you at least have asked the women how they got to be there? Could be they organized the effort themselves, or it was a Stake RS project, brought up, budgeted, and conducted only by women.

    Kudos for being there to “exercise your Priesthood” (which I can’t even seem to type without an eyeroll), but minus several points for the judgments. All of those people were there because they wanted to serve, and don’t deserve your “holier than thou” treatment of them, their beliefs, or their religion.

  72. Great video john f.! Thanks for posting it.

  73. I don’t see why it has to be a party and a feast every night. What is wrong with having a little variety? What is wrong with one group being 20 and serving a more lavish meal with entertainment and one group serving without entertainment a lower budget meal?
    As the recipient of meals while my husband was in the hospital, I think variety is nice. I also think that accepting the service of those whose cooking skills are weaker or whose presentation is weaker is great.
    You should not put so much distance between the haves and have nots. If this homeless shelter had three homeless people who volunteered to participate in service, would you be so critical? Or would you be thrilled that they managed to show up and managed to buy the food that was needed?
    Let’s actually be serious about “there but for the grace of God go I.” The difference between the giver and the receiver is miniscule. Sometimes the giver isn’t all that more capable or more amazing or more talented or more gregarious or more whatever than the receiver.

  74. “But if the Savior was coming over for dinner what would you cook?”

    Whatever was on the menu for that day.

    “You might as well be shining shoes with no one in them!”

    Because no service is better than less-than-ideal service? No thanks.

    Not directly related, but relevant, I think:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2013/12/what-would-jesus-eat-or-how-not-to.html

  75. This post has had a great conversation, I want to add one more insight. NOT JUDGEMENT. Three years ago our Bishop asked me personally to be our ward community service coordinator. I love my calling. I love my ward, they give generously. However, community service really does get hampered on a ward and personal level because of our church commitments. As an entire ward we are bound up in callings and such. Even people who have Sunday only assignments, such as teacher,etc. We have family commitments to church – and that requires scheduling. Scouts on this night, activity days here, YM/YW there, extra YM/YW things like firesides, dance festival practice, etc. We add hometeaching, visiting teaching, good parenting – such as homework, dinner around the table and so on. Then there is ward temple night, youth temple trip, so on and so on. Finding time to attend a community service project alone is challenging. The calendar of life is already full.

    Our ward over the past three years has responded well to our activities, that said, it usually is the same people, who are already super busy. Volunteerism works that way.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is – it usually falls to Relief Society. Our first event had both men and women, pretty soon though, it was just women. I am not blaming men, it just seems to shuffle that way. A month ago we got a new Bishop, he moved my calling to Relief Society Humanitarian Aid. It’s still the same thing, but it subtly said, you ladies can take care of this. That kind of hurt.

    Great post, great thoughts, no easy answers.

  76. Ray,
    Are you honestly saying that you never do anything different for a special occasion or guest (or just trying to be the contrarian to win a blog comment — if so you can win)? But if the doctrine of serving the Lord directly is properly understood when you help others you have a very different approach to service. It doesn’t mean that you’d never cook a good chilli dog, but then again, the chilli dog service has something all modernists should love — sustainability. At least more sustainable than lavish banquets every night of the week. And very often the plight of the poor is the result of unsustainable choices (on either the individual level or the macro economic level).

  77. This discussion seems to focus on different attitudes of respect reflected in Mark’s two examples. At the conclusion of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked who “was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36). Both the Mormons and the Pentecostals in Mark’s experience showed themselves as “neighbor” in the Good Samaritan sense by showing up to help those people out.

    At issue here, however, is the next level of analysis, which has been pointed out by a number of commenters above. Jesus taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). More specifically, he said that

    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25:44-45, emphasis added)

    So the question here is about treatment, which is in turn about respect. In our service, are we treating those we serve the way we would treat the Savior himself if he were the recipient? In Mark’s example, the Pentecostals exemplify that kind of service. They showed the homeless people — people at the very bottom of society, cast out, despised — respect by seeing them as people, as evidenced by sitting with them, talking to them, eating the same food with them, and finally singing hymns of praise together with them.

    Both the Mormons and the Pentecostals in Mark’s experience were serving the people. But I think that at least in this isolated example, only the Pentecostals were “ministering unto” the people as Christ ministers unto us (e.g. in 3 Nephi when he presided over angels ministering to the children). That is a good example for us. We can emulate that. We can minister like that too.

    Is there anything systemic in our culture that would be an obstacle to ministering in that way to homeless people? Do our teachings and rhetoric about the poor reflect respect for them and encourage us to see them as people, as individuals worthy of dignity and respect simply by virtue of being human, separate and apart from the choices they have made that might or might not have influenced their current circumstances? We certainly have a doctrinal foundation for seeing them this way. The Book of Mormon provides the teachings of King Benjamin, who admonished us to this kind of respect for the beggars, not only encouraging each of us to understand our own nature as beggars before God, but also imploring us not to judge the beggar who is requesting relief from us. We should give without saying that they have brought their circumstances on themselves and therefore blaming them for their own misery thus excusing us from assisting them.

    An unfortunate trend in our teachings and rhetoric in recent decades has arguably eclipsed this kind of pure respect for people despite their poverty and abject need. We now translate scriptures and doctrines such as King Benjamin’s and many others into a self-help paradigm in which we first blame the poor for their circumstances (their choices, their methods, their habits) and then convince ourselves that we are not in the business of giving handouts but rather that we want to “teach them to fish rather than give them a fish” whether they want to learn how to fish (or are able to learn how to fish) or not. We have corporatized the process, adopting the language of behavioral management and organizational development, and apply that clumsily to the poor and their plight.

    This is possibly a systemic obstacle to our ability to “minister unto” the poor in such a simple, straightforward, and Christlike way, as modeled by the Pentecostals in this one experience that Mark had. I think it was valuable that he highlighted this experience and prompted all of us to introspection on these questions. At least for me, I feel it has been fruitful (see my introspection above).

    I am among the worst offenders. I would definitely serve like the three RS ladies on the Mormon night — clinically, efficiently, in and out, done and gone. I would certainly have felt a shameful revulsion at the condition and plight of those needing to have their meals at the shelter. I would certainly have had to fight (very hard) a strong, culturally ingrained judgmentalism in which I would have second-guessed every “beggar” in the line, trying to figure out what choices they made, what they did and do, that brought their predicament on themselves. I am aware that this attitude fails to “minister unto” them and desperately need to repent of it, though I feel unable to. That is where the Atonement can make up the difference. It would take really coming out of my shell to show each of those individuals the respect they deserve. It is something I aspire to and am grateful for this reminder and the example of the Pentecostals’ “ministering unto” those people. I also want to show those people the respect they deserve just because they exist and are children of God.

  78. small s steve says:

    It seems to me the distinctions between Mormons and Pentecostals can at least in part be traced to their cultural roots. Mormonism came out of the Puritan/Quaker tradition and is largely characterized by quiet reverence, introversion/introspection, etc. Conversely, Pentecostalism is a newer 20th century phenomenon characterized by energetic revivalism, charisma and extroversion/extrospection. Perhaps Mormons and Pentecostals could adopt those complimentary qualities that would serve to make each group more balanced in their approach to service and ministering.

  79. “Are you honestly saying that you never do anything different for a special occasion or guest (or just trying to be the contrarian to win a blog comment — if so you can win)?”

    First, I addressed that in the post to which I linked.

    To answer directly, relative poverty tends to eliminate special and different from a meal schedule. When I had more money (say, ten years ago), I would have prepared a nicer meal – but it still would have been within our budget. Now? I would serve whatever is on the menu for that day. Anything else would mean cutting back on what my kids eat for other meals, and I doubt Jesus would want that just so he could eat a “nicer” meal. I think he would understand eating what we could give him right now.

  80. Because no service is better than less-than-ideal service? Nothing like that was implied Ray, nor does that follow. More like – missed opportunity due to lack of awareness.

  81. Boy, I sure hope the three RS sisters that actually performed this service don’t happen upon this blog that criticizes them as though they were faceless automotons that represent, by the OP’s description, the whole of Mormon service. And that they don’t see how scriptures about Jesus are being contorted to condemn their selfless acts.

    That . . . Would be devastating.

    Fine if you think that Mormons don’t sing enough after they take time out of their lives to serve. But, I implore you, stop acting like you know the hearts of the three Mormon women, or like you know whether Jesus is well-please with their actions.

    You, John F., don’t have zero authority on either topic as it relates to these three daughters of God who have been unwittingly subjected to ignorant scrutiny.

    Talk about ideal service all you want. But leave them alone.

  82. The unfortunate double negative undermined my intentions. But I think I made my point.

  83. Does anyone else get the feeling that it the actions had been reversed, the rhetoric would be how the Mormons were pushing their religion on the homeless (who just wanted to eat, and deserve freedom -from- religion), while the Pentecostals just did the job?

  84. Lots to think about here. I am glad to have the chance to reflect on it. We invited families from a shelter to join our ward Christmas party, and our focus was on making sure they felt totally welcome, their kids had fun and were entertained, and that the atmosphere was festive and enjoyable for everyone. The guests sat among us. But that was a party. When we’ve served food at the shelter, we’ve generally been more efficient. Kids have homework and bedtimes. Parents have work schedules. It’s not really a day away. Maybe we should try to make it more of one at times.

  85. Seeing as this post was an observation, I’ll take it an extrapolate it in my own life. As Maxwell said sometimes our members pass through our temples without having the temples pass through us . . . when I serve am I allowing it to change my heart? because the real purpose of life is not what we do but who we become? These are great questions for all of us to ponder.

    ps I also believe our culture has a ‘gospel of prosperity’ attitude that makes it harder for us to connect and serve the poor. I think I’ll start looking for ways I can serve at my local charities. thanks for the prompting.

  86. Frank, I was thinking on similar lines. If the guests truly enjoyed the music and everything, that’s great in most circumstances. It depends what kind of shelter this is. If this is government-run, I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that the food and service come with strings attached or that evangelizing was being done (regardless of how well it might have been received in practice). And maybe the guests don’t want to be entertained and have to pretend to enjoy it in exchange for food. Maybe they just want to eat quickly and go do whatever else they had planned for the evening. “I’m going to be your friend and entertain you now and you’d better like it!” can come off as demanding or condescending sometimes. Or maybe that’s just what they needed.

  87. Hard to know what is going on behind the scenes. One thought I had which I haven’t yet seen on the thread is that those which the shelter serves might actually benefit from the diversity of experiences. Some might really enjoy and get something out of the hands on approach by the Pentecostals that night. Others might put up with it, the price they pay to get a meal they need. Some may prefer a quiet meal with simple service. The same person might need both experiences on different nights. I know for me that some nights I would love the sing-a-long, meet new people social experience. On others, quiet, efficient and unobtrusive would be appreciated.

  88. Any way we serve is service. No one should be condemned for their method of service.

  89. A meaningful lesson in here for me, Mark. Thanks for posting.

  90. Mark, your post brought back my experience as a bishop in Las Vegas. I had been working with the St. Vincent homeless shelter and had the idea to start having our youth in our ward volunteer to do a meal shift once a month. We did it for several months and overall it was a good experience for most. however, there came a time when complaints were made (some in private and then in one ward council meeting by the YW President) that it was uncomfortable to have our youth, young women especially, exposed to “these” individuals. The desire waned and we discontinued going as a ward. Frankly, I noticed exactly what you so artfully described above, i.e., that other christian groups were far, far more embracing of these outcasts—and candidly more so than myself. Not sure why entirely? Maybe they just do it more or maybe we have some things in us that has conditioned us to think less of these individuals. I noticed this also when I went to Occupy Salt Lake City in Liberty Park that the mormons, as a faith group, were conspicuously absent

  91. Thanks so much for this post, Mark. I don’t know if there’s a particular way to serve that’s best – maybe it’s different for each of us, depending on our talents and strengths. But this post really inspired me to find a way to serve, however I can, so I appreciate it.

  92. And that, dear Steve Evans, is why I don’t hold your opinions in high regard. You think it is perfectly okay to call someone you don’t know and don’t bother to understand repugnant, but you not only can’t handle them telling you that they don’t care what you call them, you try to silence even their clarification of their meaning.

    Bullies do that, and I have no regard for bullies. They don’t frighten me, nor do they matter to me. And while I don’t doubt you will find yourself unable to publish or even respond personally to this very mild response to your tactics, you will nonetheless see it. And that is enough for me.

  93. I know this topic has run its course, but I am grateful for it. The other day I read it, posted a thought, then moved on. I had things to do. That night I was walking into my sons theater rehearsal, like every other person that night I was going to drop by turn in some paperwork, do my thing and go. As I entered the building I remembered this post, an emotional push crept up and urged me to acknowledge people more sincerely. At that moment I was passing a student standing by himself, a few kids had walked past him without even saying hi. I just looked at him, made sure we made eye contact, smiled and said, “Hi”. It wasn’t much, he was teen, he may have been standing alone to get cell reception, I don’t know, but the lesson I take from this and from Jesus Christ is – I need to do better at noticing people. I am grateful this topic came up to remind me of this. Am I too busy, being busy – I forget people. Thank you.

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