I groan and complain because it’s early in the morning and as my husband says, “You’ve never been a morning person.” I’ve decided, in fact, this is not my ministry. Opportunities to give back abound; it’s my choice how to respond. I’ll go one more time and then I’ll ease out. Let someone more suited take over. Life is a series of choices, and I have mine to make.
He sits next to me, one eye injured, the other gently making a connection. He calls me by name because I’m wearing a name tag—this has happened the entire morning and I keep forgetting the name tag and wondering, how do you know me? He tells me he hasn’t seen me around these parts before. I explain my disjointed living schedule, and I throw in that I’ve cut my hair; I suspect most folks won’t recognize me with such a radically different look. “It looks good,” he says. When I demure, he adds, “I’m serious. It lets the beauty of your face shine through.”
“Ellen!” he yells. He told me he wanted to read me his story before I left and, distracted, I’m walking out the door. I sit on the couch. He reads, giving it inflection where needed, demonstrating the surprise he felt at the time of which he writes. The narrative flows easily. Toward the end, he arrives at a pause in the telling where beautiful imagery rises with his words, and time begins to stand still. Slowly, he closes the story, and I must reach out and give him a hug. The story is amazing.
They’ve been together for ten years. His face glows as he tells the story of their recent trip to marry. They wear matching wedding bands. His spouse’s sleeve threatens to drape through the breakfast grits. He rolls the sleeve for his spouse, removing it from danger. He allows me to write a prayer of thanksgiving for their newly committed love.
I’m supposed to be giving. I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be volunteering. I’m supposed to be bringing. I am folding paper and cutting out hearts and crosses. I am doing nothing. I am the recipient. If I return, it’s not because I have a ministry to fulfill. It’s because I’ve left that much more indebted.
Tags: feeding program, homelesness, homeless arts ministry, homeless breakfast, homeless church service, homelessness and the arts, ministry of presence, ministry to homeless, who really is ministering