...well, one of my many highlights, but the true topper was serving at the Rockford Rescue Mission with my mom. I've done my fair share of community outreach projects over the years, but this past week's event was by far one of the coolest thing I have done. Ever.
When I arrived home, my mom invited to serve lunch with her and her mission trip teammates at the local rescue mission. Seeing as though I had nothing planned and with the event still allotting ample time for me to sleep in, I thought "why not". Not exactly selfless, but at least I agreed based on my wide open calendar. So off we went in the snow and cold to serve what I thought would be your average soup kitchen lunch. Boy was I wrong.
In we walked to a Christmas wonderland, where every table had fresh flowers, hand decorated place mats, goodie bags with snacks and candy, and Christmas trees and decor galore. These people were doing it up right! We quickly learned that this would be one of only 2 seated and served meals these people will get throughout the year. They would come in, find a seat and be served by yours truly. I was quickly humbled by the fact that we really were going to be "serving" these folks their one, hot Christmas meal. No soup and stale bread would ensue, but hot and fresh ham, potatoes, green bean casseroles, etc...
While we began to serve up the plates (I was graced with the duty of potato scooper), we watched as members of their women's recovery program preformed a Christmas dance routine in white robes. The song they chose was about trials and struggles, but that the Lord was with you through it all. As they danced to the words, people slowly started standing up one by one in the crowd and clapping and shouting praises to the Lord. It broke my heart and warmed it at the same time that these people who literally have nothing but what they carry in a duffel bag, could still shout praises to their God. I knew in that second that I know nothing of struggles. Not a thing.
After the meal concluded, we were blessed to be able to give gifts to each attendee before they headed back out into the balmy temps of an Illinois winter. A Bible, new gloves, new socks, and a scarf were given to each person as they left. Being the resident scarf passer-outer, I was able to give them some warmth as they thanked us and wished us a Merry Christmas. Insert humbled heart once again. One of the younger men stopped and chatted for a moment and I asked where he was from. He said "he moved here from NY a few years ago" and I couldn't help but wonder if he chased a dream here only to be cold, alone and homeless a few years later. I know they all have stories, as we all do, but I wish I had had the time to learn more of them.
Last but not least, after we were all done and our aprons were in the trash, the rescue mission staff sat us down and fed us lunch. It was so unnecessary, but so cool to be eating exactly what they had eaten and only after making sure they were served first. With hearts and bellies full we all bundled back up to the brave the streets. Or at least from the mission to our cars. Humbled once again as we drove away, heat blasting, my mind wandered as we passed our diners gathered along the street corners and the bus station. Now what do they do, I thought quietly.
It's only January 4th, but I'm already looking forward to serving that meal again next year. Granted it was hot and sweaty, my wrist hurt from scooping so quickly, and we smelled a bit like ham the rest of the day, but wearing a hair net in a cafeteria line has never felt so good. I'm so thankful for the lives we encountered, the mouths we fed, and the necks we warmed. I'm praying their still a little bit toastier somewhere in Rockford.