Sunday, December 31, 2017

It does matter. It does make a difference.

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that I am involved with a group called "We Walk Together Charlotte." It started just a few weeks after the terrible shooting at Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston, SC. We have walked well over one hundred miles here in Charlotte, getting to know the city and each other. During 2016 and 2017, we incorporated a volunteer component. We walk on the 15th of every month and we volunteer on the 30th. All over Charlotte.

Most of the time when we walk, we are just walking and talking to each other. Getting to know the city a little bit, and getting to know each other fairly well as we walk and talk. Many times when we volunteer, we spend an hour or two, perhaps three hours, serving food to the hungry, hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity build project, hanging out with young people in crisis, among other things. One time, we baked cookies for the residents of the local Ronald McDonald house. Another time, we painted fingernails at a home for young women who are pregnant and cannot live at home for one reason or another.

I confess that there are times when I wonder if what we are doing makes a difference. I mean, we are just walking the streets of the city. Sometimes we pick up garbage as we walk. Often times we greet the people we meet as we walk. Always, we get lost in conversation with each other. And when we volunteer, I have often thought, "Does it matter that we are here only once a year, serving lunch or serving dinner? Are we making a difference for these families by baking cookies in the kitchen of the house where they stay while watching over a sick child in a nearby hospital?

Yesterday, on the occasion of our final volunteer project for 2017, we delivered furniture to two people who have just recently transitioned from homelessness into permanent housing. We delivered couches, end tables, chairs, a coffee pot, a small television, and even an ironing board to two different homes. We wished them well in their new homes. We prayed with them. We hugged them. And we left. The whole thing was finished in less than two hours.

As we drove away from the second home, it hit me. Hard.
It does matter.
It does make a difference.
Because if we hadn't started walking together in the summer of 2015,
if we hadn't continued to walk,
if we hadn't begun to volunteer once a month,
then some cookies might not have been made.
some meals might not have been served.
and those two people might not have gotten their furniture yesterday.

Maybe I'm overstating that. Maybe those things would have been done anyway.
But they wouldn't have been done by us.
We wouldn't have had the privilege of looking people in the eye and giving them food.
We wouldn't have had the opportunity to provide homemade cookies for people who cannot be at home because someone they love is sick.
We wouldn't have stood in those two recently furnished living rooms yesterday and had the high honor of wishing those two individuals a happy new year in their happy new homes. 

After being homeless for a while, the man we met yesterday expressed his happiness at not being outside on that cold morning - it was in the 20s in Charlotte yesterday morning. He had obviously been sleeping on the floor there, but last night he slept on a mattress and box spring. (For some reason, he didn't choose to have a bed frame.) That matters. That makes a difference. 

No matter how small it may feel to you, say hello to the security guard at the door.
Acknowledge the presence of the person asking for money, even if you don't give them anything.
Greet the person behind the cash register or the receptionist desk with a smile.
Thank the person cleaning the rest room.
And if you are the security guard, 
the person behind the cash register or the receptionist desk,
if you are the person who cleans the rest room or has asked for money,
I see you. I thank you for your service. I honor you for your courage to ask for help.

It does matter, friends.
It does make a difference.
Can I plagiarize that decades' old Nike motto for a moment?
Here goes - Just do it.

Happy new year to you. 
Happy new year to all of us.
Thanks be to God.


d henry said...

this is wonderful---I got here via Jena Schwartz---but your words are very heartening and I, too, believe we can make a difference every day in those small encounters that can mean so much in life....

Kim Stump said...

Gail- I could hear you in my head as I read your piece, wonderful as always!!