http://www.dictionary.com defines “salvation” as “the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc.” Likewise, it notes that synonyms for “kindness” include “humanity, generosity…sympathy, compassion…”
I’m fortunate to have seen kindness and salvation demonstrated today – on multiple occasions…
I saw a family of friends clean out their closets and donate eight bags of clothes that have already been distributed and are keeping friends who live on the Music City streets warm this winter night.
I saw friends and family deliver firewood and carefully packaged homemade cookies to the camps of some of our homeless friends in and around Nashville this afternoon.
I saw a number of motorists stop to hand money to local street newspaper vendors waiting patiently at high-volume intersections – and hoped each was overpaying with a joyful heart.
And, this evening, my family and I had the unique first-time experience of joining two other friends on a journey to the Jefferson Street bridge. Our intent was to meet the Salvation Army truck that would be there to hand out meals to the homeless and challenged – under the bridge at 6 PM.
By 6:15, a small crowd had gathered – men and women young and old, as well as a few small children waiting as patiently as small children do. And yet, no Salvation Army truck in sight.
With the help of Google, I found a local phone number and was pleasantly surprised that someone actually answered when I called – 6:15 PM on a Friday, just two days before Christmas…I was optimistic. I inquired about the status of the truck, only to hear “We didn’t have any volunteers, so we won’t be there tonight.” Wow. Optimism was traded for disappointment and regret.
And so, there under the bridge, five of us with just the items we brought – a few cases of individual-serving bags of potato chips and about a hundred or so each of protein bars and Rice Krispie treats. Greetings and prayers were shared – along with fist-pumps from the youngest – as we handed out what we had.
Before departing, one of the group of many went to a nearby car with his chips and protein bars, returning shortly thereafter with a toy for each of the little ones. I was reminded of the widow (Luke 21), as this kind soul’s sacrifice and generosity far exceeded my own. Humbling.
As I drove home, I was grateful for the opportunity to be there tonight. At least we were there to give them something and demonstrate that they are not forgotten. I was mortified to think that they would have been confronted with having been completely forgotten if the five of us had not made the trip. My only regret was (and is) that we would have brought far more if we had known that the food truck would not be there.
And yet, I was angry and saddened that – of all days of the year…just two days before Christmas – there were no volunteers to drive the truck. There was no army.
Scripture teaches us that the Christ child was wrapped in swaddling clothes and carefully laid in a manger, due to a lack of room at the inn. And I wonder…
In this Christmas season, what does it say of us that there are not enough volunteers to drive the food truck. When we neglect the least of these, do we not neglect Him? (Matthew 25) I can only imagine what distractions (priorities) precluded all volunteers from partaking in the opportunity to feed the hungry, especially now. Is there no more room for Him today as there was that night under the stars? Are we really so preoccupied as to be the modern day manifestation of the inn that leaves Him outside?
Friends, as you travel to and from holiday gatherings and meals and all of the celebratory retail madness that occurs this time of year, I hope you will look for the opportunities. Keep a McDonald’s gift card or two in the car and, when the opportunity presents, hand it out the window to that person in need. Buy the street newspaper and pay 10x the cover price. Share a smile, friendly wave, and make eye contact that says you care. Thank a public servant who is working and apart from family so as to keep us safe. Stop by the local food kitchen not just to drop off food, but to spend some time sitting and talking with people. Be the light.
The simple reality is that salvation does not require an army of “qualified drivers,” checklist manifestos, or other bureaucratic administrivia. Hunger does not wait patiently. “The act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc” simply requires us to join His army and soldier on – looking and listening for those opportunities to save and protect those placed in our path.
I am reminded of the lyrics of Kutless in their song “This is Christmas”…
“Do you find it hard to sleep til’ night,
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoes,
The tree with presents wrapped below,
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger.
What is Christmas without Christ?“
Indeed. This is Christmas.
Merry Christmas to ALL. Especially the overlooked among us.
Soldier UP. Soldier on. And don’t spend too much time waiting for the truck. Just go.