The last few weeks have been wintery, and I have to say I am ready for the spring that, when you read this, will be upon us—or so I hope. I began to complain about the cold and winter when we got a rather large pile of snow, so much that people were saying things like, “We have not seen this much snow in a long time,” and a couple of young people mentioned that they had never seen that much snow ever.
I have learned a lot this winter. In fact, I have realized in the past two years that I have learned a lot from a group of people to whom I thought God sent me to help; but once again, God had me fooled. Little did I know his plan was for those I met at the breakfast program to teach me things that would make me a better deacon with more tolerance for all people!
One particular morning began with the temperature below zero and me not really wanting to get out of my warm bed—but I realized there would be people standing in line shortly, looking for a breakfast bag and a coffee or two. I know, once I open the door to the church, I will be reminded how happy it makes me feel to be there.
I make sure I have a supply of socks, toques, mitts, and some hygiene products for those who might need them and it is time to open the door. A table is between me and my first guest. I know him; he is one of the regulars. I reach for what he always wants and tell him to have a good day. There are more regulars who I can call by name or just know their faces. Some new faces appear, and I may need to explain what is in each bag and ask them if they might need any of the other supplies we have. Sometimes I get frustrated when one of the guests asks for a special cereal and I have to go looking through the bin underneath the table to find one they may be okay with. But then I try to remember: if it were me standing on the other side of the table, what would I be requesting?
I have learned that not everyone likes sugary cereal, and others like extra sugar on that already sugared cereal.
I have learned to keep quiet when someone insists that the day is Friday, even though it is Thursday. It really doesn’t matter.
I have learned that just because someone does not have a hat on their head, they still may not want the pink one with the pompom on the top. In fact, there is more call for black hats.
I know that a small pair of socks works to keep hands warm when there are no gloves to hand out.
Some of those I say good morning to barely whisper their choice of breakfast bags, and others have stories to tell. Some of those stories are the same every day, but I am learning (or, should I say I am trying to remember) to listen like it is the first time the story has been told.
A four by four is a coffee with four sugars and four milks, and if they want five sugars in that small cup of coffee—which may be way too many for my liking—it is what they want, and no comment should be uttered as that coffee is made special for them.
If I get a coffee, sandwich, or bowl of cereal thrown at me, the next day I see that person I need to forgive and forget. It isn’t about keeping score.
Many of these newly learned things for me might be simple, not a big deal, but for those who stand before me, it can mean a good start to their day.
All I need to know to make me a better person, Christian, and deacon has been taught to me most recently by those less fortunate than myself. Everyone deserves respect and dignity —whether they show up with a blanket wrapped around them, too high on drugs to stand before me and tell me which bag they want, or standing before me with newly painted fingernails and nice warm clothes.