What a food pantry taught me
Earlier this year, my church sent an email plea for its Food Pantry ministry. I’ve volunteered at and donated to food banks for almost a decade. I was already contemplating returning to this area of service post-COVID when that email landed in my inbox. There were lots of opportunities to physically serve or to donate, so I reached out to the leader and showed up the following week.
Sharing the bounty of our time, energy, or resources is a requirement of a grace-giving life. On the first Wednesday after that email, I found myself packing cold bags with frozen meat and deli items.
Something happened that day, though, that enlightened my understanding of authentic grace. True grace, we must surely know, holds no judgment.
Look at that car…
I met a woman and her family on their first visit — helped them get to the sign-in table and chatted with her sweet children. Another volunteer, though, could not get over the car this family was riding in. It was “too nice” apparently, so obviously (to her) they were not as needy as others.
I was taken aback, but prepared to respond to her doubting words. “You don’t know anything about them,” I told her. She shook her head again, clearly doubting the level of need this family might have.
“You just never know what people are going through. What if she borrowed that car? Or maybe it’ll be repossessed next week because her husband cleaned out their checking account.”
My argument received a raised brow.
“Let God sort it out. We’re here to help people,” was all I had left to convince her.
Giving and receiving grace
I’ve been meditating on this scripture for the past few weeks because it illuminates the works of service and faith we are called upon to offer.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16, ESV)
And then there’s this lovely version:
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (John 1:16, NLT)
That volunteer has never returned to this joyful Food Pantry. I’ve made some terrific friendships and get to joke like siblings with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Hauling frozen foods is hard work, but the time flies because we’re having fun. The client count often tops 100 in just two hours, and many want to know our names and thank us personally.
It feels good to work there each week. I’m sharing with others the grace I’ve received from my Father in heaven.
And there, I too am journeying in His grace.