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A gift of new shoes

Story by Carol Hunt

Early in September, a worried mother was in our clothes rack.  She was a mother of two sons, Jeremy (8) and Thomas (2 ½).  She asked for used shoes for her eight year old son.  Any kind would do because school would begin in two days, and the money she had saved for new shoes had to be spent on medicine for her youngest child who had an ear infection.  I glanced down at Jeremy’s feet.  The sole of one shoe had a gaping hole—the result of summer days of running and jumping.  She had but three choices in his size.  A sadness came over me, but clearly to this mother the used, soiled shoes were a gift.  As they tried on the shoes that were available, I searched for new socks.  Their newness contrasted with the used shoes.  Suddenly, the spontaneous delight of the child brought joy.  There was a preciousness in both the old and new.

 Two days later, a truck arrived loaded with a huge box.  The driver of the truck told me the box had fifty pair of new shoes and he asked if he could please have a tax receipt.  Fifty new pair of shoes for fifty children.  I was overwhelmed!  When we removed the brown, corrugated paper from the sides of the box, I felt extreme disappointment, and I am sure my face showed it.  There were indeed new shoes, but none of them matched and some of them had cuts on the soles.  As the staff stood looking into the box, we began to laugh.  The absurdity of fifty pair of non-matching shoes.  It was a challenge to turn this into a positive experience, but we did.  We spent hours matching near-alike shoes, a process which resulted in nine pair.

One week later, there was a knock at the children’s center.  When I opened the door, there stood Jeremy holding a box.  “I brought you a present,” he said excitedly, “and I want to show you my new shoes.”  “Oh Jeremy,” I exclaimed.  “They are wonderful.”  “This is for you,” he said as he shoved the box into my hands.  “We saved enough money to buy two pairs of shoes, one for me and one for another boy.  Thank you for helping us.  Mom says these will help you!”  I thought of the fifty miss-matched shoes.  Jeremy’s mother had made a sacrifice.  Her tax receipt would be the example that her son learned by buying a second pair of shoes to share with others.

I reached down to embrace Jeremy.  His mother waved from the car.  No words were necessary.  On the mother’s face was a beautiful expression of joy.  She knew the joy of her gift.  She had known the struggle of providing shoes for her own children.  She had fully experienced, expressed, and understood compassion.  Christ comes to dwell in our everydayness.

The Divine Appointment

He really wasn’t supposed to be here. We were open after our regular service hours for Thanksgiving registration and there was a new volunteer being trained to answer the telephone from 2p-4p on Tuesdays. The volunteer came to me and said, “We have a Hispanic gentleman in the waiting room that has no ID. We have tried to explain that he must have an ID to register for Thanksgiving, but I don’t think he understands. Can you help?”

After explaining to him in Spanish that he must have an ID to register for Thanksgiving, he replied, “I don’t want to register for Thanksgiving.” I asked what he needed. “A blanket”, he replied, “It’s going to be cold tonight.”

“Are you sleeping outside?” I asked him. “Yes,” came the reply, with a plaintive look on his face. I could have explained to him that MUST requires him to come during service hours, so he needed to come back the next day, show ID and go through the interview process in order to receive a blanket- but it was going to be 32 degrees that night. James 2:15-16 came to mind: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” I told him to wait a moment and I would check the linen closet for a blanket or a sleeping bag.

In the linen closet were only 2 small, thin throw blankets. I thought about the extra sleeping bag I had at home and started back upstairs to tell him he could come back tomorrow to get it, although that would not do him any good on this cold night. As I walked up the ramp, I spotted a pile of bags full of donations in the clothing sorting area. I found the Operations Manager and asked, “I know it sounds crazy, but do you know if there are any sleeping bags in these donations?” She replied, “I don’t know, but what’s that there?” There was something rolled up in a plastic bag, either a sleeping bag or a comforter. I couldn’t tell which it was but I thought either would be of help to him, so I carried the big bag up to the waiting room.

As the client received it, he thanked me profusely, putting his hands together as if offering a prayer of thanks. I told him he could return the next day if he needed food and clothing and then he left. As I turned to tell the volunteers that all he wanted was a blanket, the new volunteer’s face lit up as she exclaimed, “I just brought that in today! My mother found out I was volunteering at MUST and cleaned out her closets so I could bring the items to donate.”

She did not answer many calls that afternoon so as she left she said, “I don’t really feel like I did that much today.” I replied, “I think you performed exactly the service that God intended for you today.”

A Gift of Cereal

Story contributed by Carol Hunt

On a hot, July morning, a child came running to the MUST van for his sack lunch.  He shared that he had a surprise for me to see on his kitchen shelf.  I walked with him through the dusty, clay yard to his door and entered a bare, dark trailer where his mother greeted us.  There on the kitchen shelf he pointed to a small plastic bag filled with cereal.  Smiling, he began to share his story.

“We almost never have cereal, but yesterday, a neighbor who had been to the MUST food place was given a box of cereal.  Last night she came over with her cereal box and gave me half.  As I got in bed I could not wait for morning to come because I knew I would have a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  Before I went to sleep I said my prayers and thanked God for the cereal and the sack lunch that you bring every day.”

And then, he took my hand and whispered, “When I grow up, I want to give out lunches just like you.”  As I walked out the door and down the broken wooden steps, I knew that I had just experienced a holy space.

This child’s expression of gratitude happened because of the compassion and presence of a neighbor and her simple gift.  If was love that brought her to share as she forgot her own needs.  Her gift of cereal and the sack lunch were made possible because a community called MUST also cared.

We discover love in the midst of ordinary moments.  In the quietness of the night, a little child’s prayer of hope and grateful joy affirms that he was loved.

A Warm Coat for a Cold Boy

Story contributed by Donna Vickory

The temperatures dropped sharply last week as the number of MUST clients rose, many looked for warmer clothing, blankets and comforters.  I am a new MUST volunteer in Smyrna and was working in the clothing closet for the first time.  A young father came in and asked if I could help him find a warm jacket for his five-year-old son.  The boy’s teacher had called the day before to ask that his son bring a coat to school or he would not be allowed to go outside for recess.

When I came in through the back door an hour earlier, the volunteer sorting our clothing donations showed me a child’s coat that was brand new with the tags still attached.   We both agreed that this Calvin Klein coat was a very special donation from a kind and generous person.  As the young father and I looked through the children’s section of clothing we couldn’t find a coat to fit him, suddenly, I remembered the new one that had been brought in that morning and ran to get it.  The little boy was so proud and the young father was overwhelmed.  He hadn’t expected to get something brand new.  I told him that he could shop for other items for his son, but he said the boy’s mother would come in to do that later.  He had come to MUST that morning just for a warm coat and left with not only that, but a very warm heart.  I did, too.

 

 

Homeless Children


Story contributed by Carol Hunt

My days are sometimes filled with anger and sadness at their victimization.  But often there comes a silent whisper of hope.  I see them individually as small miracles that deal with that silent place where a child’s fears crouch.  For me, action is an affirmation of God.  One sometimes seeks the truth through one’s own daily ‘busyness’.  Part of the joy lies in the daily renewal of respect for our own humanness, which is contained in each of us.  It is to share in the suffering of the world.  Compassion is a word meaning to suffer with the other.  We are children of God together.  It is a quality of love that invites us to hold the pain of another, an acceptance of our (yours and mine) own brokenness.  We liberate others by not making them feel the guilt of that brokenness. To respond in a small way is to help create a world where it is easier and more natural to accept forgiveness.  I come not with answers and solutions.  I bring my own poverty, brokenness, and questioning.  I am reminded of the words of Rosalie Bentille: “As long as we are unquestioning, we are part of the problem.”  I come with respect for the fragility and importance of an individual life, knowing that love is measured by its fullness, not by its reception. St. Johnof the Cross wrote: “where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.”  In seeking love, I am being pushed to my own freedom.  I learn to look for light where there is darkness, for goodness where there is anger.  I believe deeply in the dignity and worth of all life and allow myself to be touched in gentle ways—the ways of a child.

Homeless children are children of a living crisis.  In all their confusion, unkeptness in tiny bodies, consumed in the everydayness of noise, the crowded emptiness of material clutter, homeless children respond in trust and innocence.  They are not indifferent.  There is an eagerness to touch, to share words, and they have not yet lost that beautiful small miracle of laughter.  For homeless children, time is spent waiting, always waiting outside locked doors or inside in long lines.  When they are not waiting, they are hurried, pushed on by impatient adults.  Their mothers have so little space and privacy for the nurturing of their own children.

 The Hopi Indians say that a child becomes human when it smiles for the first time.  MUST is a place built on faith in the preciousness of a child’s smile, in a child’s openness to life, indeed in a child’s own humanness.  We share in both their hopes and in their suffering.  It is in the taking of small steps that we come to understand with more clarity.

I wasted so much money…

I can remember like it was yesterday…

I was working full-time (granted it was a high stress job where I was on call 24/7) but I was gainfully employed.  When the money was coming in, I didn’t think twice about spending money on clothes because they were on sale, not because I LOVED them and knew I would wear them.  I also remember donating clothes with tags still on them to various charities because I never wore them.  O.K. – so that wasn’t necessarily a waste, but could have been better spent if the money went directly to the charity instead of on clothes that would sit in my closet until they went out of style.

I also remember taking up hobbies, spending money on so many “things” I didn’t need, being completely oblivious of the need just around the corner at MUST Ministries.  I knew there were homeless people – that’s what I called them… thinking nothing of how it made them feel to be called homeless.  I’ve learned homelessness is a temporary state of being, not a label.   Or families that struggled on a daily basis wondering where their next meal would come from, when I would buy too much produce and end up having to throw half of it out because it went bad.  I wasn’t very sympathetic.  I thought if they wanted to work badly enough, they’d get a job, even if they had to flip burgers.  I know now, it’s not that easy.

This was many years ago.  I have since then lost that great paying job due to falling ill because of all the stress and am currently only working part-time.  (Yes, we had savings and yes we went through all of it.  That’s another story.)  Not because that’s all I want to work, but because it’s difficult to find full-time employment despite my skills.  I have learned working with MUST Ministries these past few months just how blessed my family and I are.  Despite the hard times we’ve gone through, barely able to pay bills each month, barely having enough food to put on the table, we’ve been fortunate in that we DID have enough.  Did I ever have to go to bed hungry? O.K. – I admit it, I did a time or two because I couldn’t stomach the same thing day in and day out.  Eating on a tight budget doesn’t give you a lot of variety.    We’ve never had to not pay a bill in order to eat.  I’ve learned there are so many people who have gone through so many hardships and when I hear of their stories, I feel guilty.  Guilty for the money I wasted all those years ago.  Guilty for the time I spent unemployed sitting at home when I could have been serving those less fortunate than myself.

This has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me, and even though we’re still living paycheck to paycheck, I give to MUST Ministries every month, even if it’s just a little bit because I see first hand just how many lives they have changed and continue to change.  Have you thought of giving a little each month?

 

Want to Volunteer Thanksgiving Day?

Helping others at Thanksgiving

We see others on television, hear about them on the radio, read about them on various news sources.  The volunteers, the ones who give of themselves during the holidays before sitting with their own families, and for some, volunteering is thier holiday tradition.

If you’ve been considering volunteering during the holidays to help those in need, at the Elizabeth Inn, you can contact lminns@mustministries.org.  Help is needed for all shifts, preparation, serving, and clean up.  All volunteers must attend a meeting November 3rd beginning at 9:30 am at the shelter kitchen to learn the proper procedures so everyone can be organized in the small kitchen and dining room. The minimum age to volunteer at the Elizabeth Inn is 16.  More details:

When?  Thanksgiving Day / sign up by October 31 / attend November 3 meeting 9:30 am
Where? Elizabeth Inn Shelter 55 Elizabeth Church Road, Marietta
More Info? Lavon Minns at lminns@mustministries.org

If you prefer a volunteer opportunity more suitable for all ages, you can volunteer for the upcoming Gobble Jog.   The 10th Annual Gobble Jog is coming soon and It’s Kind of a Big Deal!  Join us as we push toward 10,000 runners at MUST Ministries’ largest fund raiser and friend raiser! While you’re running (or walking), you will be helping more than 33,000 people struggling in poverty by assisting with groceries, hot meals, housing, emergency shelter, employment services, clothing and access to healthcare.  In addition, you’ll be reaching 15,000 children who benefit from these services, plus the MUST Summer Lunch and Christmas shop programs.  Come be a part of something important by helping with something that changes lives.

Your Thanksgiving Day will have new meaning.

Seth’s Summer Lunch Story

I will never be the same.

 

This time last summer, I was walking across a beautiful college campus in North Georgia. Everything was green and flourishing. I strolled past large, brick dorms housing students who seemed to have every material thing and walked on past an “all you can eat” cafeteria full of unlimited food selections. I was blissfully oblivious that just a few miles away, there were children who had almost nothing and were desperate to eat a meal.

 

This week, I met some wonderful MUST volunteers in Cherokee County and we headed down Bells Ferry Road with 475 sack lunches packed in a bright red pick-up truck adorned with a large MUST Ministries magnet sign. As we entered the trailer park, I immediately saw little faces start to peak through the curtains pulled over the windows. We only needed to honk once and right away, hungry kids surrounded our vehicle!  The same thing happened over and over as we traveled to neighborhoods right down the road from where I live and work.

 

As noon approached, our large number of lunches depleted to just a few. We were nearing the end of our route and had one last family of three children to serve. I looked in the truck as the hot Georgia sun beat down on us and only one lunch remained. I felt heart-sick. How could this have happened? I thought we had plenty. “I’m so sorry,” I offered. They smiled sweetly back at me. “Maybe tomorrow,” they replied, and slowly turned to walk back toward their trailer.

 

About that time, a man and his son started to make their way toward us, carrying two sack lunches they had picked up earlier. The man was saying over and over, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He explained that his daughter had picked up two lunches and so did his son, so they wanted to return two. All of the volunteers broke into wide smiles, knowing those two lunches were exactly what we needed to feed the last family. I was reminded of the words of a former minister of mine, “You always have more when you give.”

 

I can’t count the number of smiles and thank you’s we received as we traveled to neighborhoods, apartments and trailer parks all morning long. The children were so grateful, yet I knew who had benefited most. I will never be the same. Won’t you join me in supporting this important ministry and the many others that serve the 15,000 children MUST reaches annually?

 

Just click the DONATE NOW button and help make sure more children have food, clothing, healthcare, school supplies and other essentials provided by MUST. They’re counting on you to provide.

 

 

Seth Tuttle

Development

MUST Ministries

 

P.S. A little girl came out to see us before we left. She was carrying three bottles of cold water and raised her tiny hands toward us to offer us cold drinks.  She had so little, but she wanted to share.  She taught me a lot in that moment.

 

 

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