Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can. ~John Wesley
When I was in journalism school, one of my favorite professors, Michele Weldon, would tell us to always come back to the same question: What do I know to be true? It’s the best way to keep a story straight in your mind. She also told us to do the best we could in the time allowed. This is great writing advice. It’s also great life advice.
This week, Canvas Community, a church downtown opened its doors as a warming center and overnight shelter for the homeless. While snow days are lots of fun for me and my family, they are life threatening for those without warm, dry shelter. There came a point in the week when this small congregation doing such big work was simply fatigued, its resources tapped. They had no more money to pay the security guards. They didn’t have any idea how they were going to pay the utilities for 100 homeless living in a building, which is usually practically empty six days a week. So the call went out: help us keep helping.
Fresh volunteers from other congregations, and some with no church affiliation at all, showed up. Money came in to pay the guards and other expenses. Food was donated. Sleep was forfeited. The immediate need was met. The church stayed open, providing three meals a day until the weather warmed to manageable temperatures.
It would be nice to write the homeless are now cared for in our city. They are not. We put a band-aid on the problem for a short time. But band-aids are called “first” aid for a reason. They are the start. More must be done in a deliberate systematic way to find jobs, health care and shelter for these people. But first we must all see them as just that: people. They have skills and talents. They have hopes and dreams. Nobody wants to be homeless when they grow up. Somewhere in their lives, something went terribly wrong. Until they are able to live up to their God-given abilities, this city will never be what it should be or can be.
We are called to help the least of these, not because we are better, but because as long as they are diminished, our whole community is diminished.
My personal contribution to this effort was Girl Friday. I helped get the word out, picked up checks and food, then delivered them to Canvas Community. I don’t know a single volunteer, check-writer, cook or coordinator who hasn’t been moved by this experience. We have all been humbled. The generosity shown by my friends in such a short time with no notice makes me proud to know them. They are generous with their time, their resources and their hearts.
What I know to be true: we did the best we could in the time allowed.