On Saturday I had the opportunity to join with friends and strangers to pack and deliver Thanksgiving food items to five families in a very poor city in NJ. I’ve written about it here, Loving with My Eyes Wide Open. This post is not so much a follow up as it is a reflection on one particular aspect of the day’s deliveries.
Nine of us, three adults and six children, piled into a 12 passenger van with our boxes full of frozen turkey and gravy, cans of green beans and boxes of stuffing and miscellaneous other items, and headed to our first address. It was like the weirdest treasure hunt ever.
It seemed best if everyone stayed in the vehicle and I went alone to knock on doors to make sure someone was at home before opening the van and allowing the children out. Sadly, we struck out at Home #1. Not to be deterred, we plugged another address in to the GPS and off we went with high hopes for better results.
After knocking on the door of Home #2 a few times, I heard a man’s voice call through the broken front window, “Who’s out there?!”
“I’m here from Seeds of Hope. I have a turkey and some Thanksgiving food to deliver.” I shouted back.
I heard some shuffling inside and the door was opened to reveal an older woman. When I told her who I was and why I was there, she broke down and said, “Praise Jesus,” and I called in the children.
The six kids happily spilled out of the van like clowns out of a clowncar and grabbed the frozen turkey, roasting pan and the box of goodies from the back. Everyone needed to carry something to the front door, even the four year old. He walked up to the house carrying a bag of mini-marshmallows in the crooks of his elbows like a Wise Man presenting a box of frankincense to Jesus.
How uplifting! What a wonderful experience!
We piled back into the van and rushed back to the home base for another address. This is great!
Home #3, however, was a somewhat different experience. As we pulled up to the row home there was a woman standing on the porch. Maybe she was waiting for us. Maybe she just recognized a large van full of middle class white people driving around town the weekend before Thanksgiving as most likely being Thanksgiving Meal Deliverers. Whatever the reason, I was just happy someone was home and I stepped out of the van to speak with her. I explained who I was and why I was there and she nodded. I called in the kids. Once again they enthusiastically piled out of the van and elbowed each other out of the way to be the first to carry the goods to the lady on the porch.
She never cracked a smile. Her “thank you” was begrudgingly given and her attitude was anything but friendly. Although she didn’t protest about the food, I sort of felt like I was the delivery guy for the supermarket – Hey Lady, here’s your Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for your order.
This second experience was vastly different than the earlier one. Everyone felt it. We sat silently in the car for a moment after loading back in and seven-year-old Asher finally commented, “She had a lot of beer caps in her yard.”
As the day went on we were blessed to deliver three more meals and received varying responses to the deliveries, some quietly grateful, others exuberant and heart-wrenching (like the one with the little boy with a medical device inserted in his throat.) But none held a candle to the response of the lady at Home #3. Memorable. Extraordinary. Unforgettable.
In hindsight, as I reflected on the day, I have one thing I’d like to say to the woman in Home #3. Thanks for being rude…no, really, Thanks.
You see, her attitude reminded me of others who were presented with a much more marvelous gift and responded, not with gratitude, but with rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance. Jesus. On the cross. Making a way for sinful, hopeless humanity to once again be with God. Emmanuel, God With Us. And what has been the response to this most excellent gift over the centuries? Gratitude, yes, thankfully, occasionally, yes; but much more often, the response to this gift is rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance.
So, Ms. Home #3, thank you for being rude. I don’t know what was going on in your heart or your life on Saturday and I am not judging you. I was as blessed (maybe more) to deliver to you as to any other and we were seeking no praise or gratitude anyway. Yet your response impressed our children so deeply that it allowed me to organically and practically speak to my children on the drive home about the truth of God’s love for us, even, and especially, when we don’t deserve it. Thank you also for the opportunity to remind them (and me) of the many who view God’s love with anything but a grateful heart. I think they understand a little better now. Happy Thanksgiving.