I remember hearing a story once, of the difference between heaven and hell. A man was given a vision of hell. A group of emaciated people were seated around a huge banquet table, full of wonderful foods. Instead of hands, they had long arms with spoons attached where their hands should be. But the spoons were too long, and no one could get them into their mouths. So even though the table was full of nourishing foods, the people were starving to death, not able to feed themselves. Then the man was given a vision of heaven. It was the same room, the same table, and the same feast. However, all the people were fat and happy and joyfully enjoying the food, even though they also had long spoons. The man asked why these people were so happy. “Because’, God said, “these people have learned to feed each other.”
When I think of us feeding each other, I generally think of very, very poor people. People who are living on the street, in shelters, and those who need the food pantry to get by. People who truly don’t have enough to eat. The single mother who goes without a meal to make sure her kids can sleep without their tummies growling. And these people are needing help, and we all know that. It makes me feel good to donate to the food pantry. We can donate money, canned food, and extra produce, and we know that we are feeding people. And that is a very good thing.
But what about the people who are living on the edge of poverty? One missed paycheck would mean them losing their home, apartment, or car. They live paycheck to paycheck. They are very careful with the money they have left after the bills are paid. They make too much to qualify for any type of assistance. One car repair, one breakdown, one unexpected hospital bill could send them over the edge.
What about the widow who’s husband passed away, and with only one social security check, she can no longer afford her groceries and prescriptions at the same time, the light bill and utilities. She cancels her cable, cuts back on everything she can, but she still can’t quite make ends meet. Now her AC goes out in the heat of the summer. Or her furnace quits in the winter, what will she do?
I know families who are very fortunate to have grandparents nearby, who can help them out with daycare, and running children to events. But there are some families who don’t have this luxury. If their child gets sick at school, they must leave work. If their child becomes very sick, and they have used up their personal leave and sick days, how will they pay their bills? What if that child is diagnosed with a chronic illness, or migraines, or cancer? How will they manage? In a world of Go Fund Me accounts and charity dinners, there are still families who suffer these financial burdens without help. The families who don’t have a community of support suffer. That’s why community is so important.
Our community is so wonderful, and we are all so fortunate to have each other. I am always willing to take care of someone’s pets when they are gone, and I know that I can count on help from them when I go on vacation. That is a direct benefit: I help you and you help me. You mow my lawn when I’m gone, and I’ll mow yours. My neighbor Paul always takes care of my chickens. He lets them out in the morning after I’ve gone to work, and I give him eggs. Plus the chickens eat some of the bugs from their yard as well as mine.
But sometimes, we are called to help those who aren’t going to help us in return. My kids are adults, so I’m not going to need someone to watch kids. But I’m willing to watch other people’s kids if they are running late. They can come in the store after they get off the school bus for 15 or 20 minutes, or however long. And while I’m not planning on opening an after school daycare, I don’t mind doing it once in awhile, if the parents call and ask first.
I want to tell you a story of a wonderful young woman who is helping so many people.
(This story is from the CBS News website.)
At a nursing home in northwest, Arkansas, CBS News found a gem named Ruby. 11-year-old Ruby Chitsey likes to go to work with her mom, Amanda.
Amanda is a nurse who travels to several nursing homes in the area. It was on one of those visits, that Ruby started going up to residents with her notepad, asking “if you could have any three things, what would they be?” Ruby says she was mostly just curious what they’d say.
“I was very surprised. I thought people would say money, houses, a Lamborghini,” she said.
But instead, here’s what she got: Electric razor, new shoes, Vienna sausage, for some reason a lot of people asked for Vienna sausage and other really basic items. Some of the other items on her list included basic clothing items, cheese, avocados, oranges and watermelon, and a chocolate pie.
“Like, that’s all they wanted. And I really decided that I needed to do something,” Ruby said.
So she started a charity called, Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents. Now, while her mom is caring for patients, Ruby goes room-to-room, jots down wishes and then sets out to grant those wishes.
Ruby has a GoFundMe to cover costs, but again, no one is asking for a sports car here. Her expenses are minimal, especially compared to the rewards.
“It really lifts you, it really does,” she said.
On one day, she came back with a wheelchair full of sausages and other grocery items. But make no mistake, this isn’t about food. Whether she knows it or not, Ruby is satisfying some much more basic human needs here, to be remembered, to be cherished, especially by a child, that is what our seniors are truly hungry for. That is what Ruby brings every time she sets foot in a nursing home.
Now, it’s not just her. Since this story first aired on CBS, Ruby has helped start chapters of her charity in other states. She speaks to advocates for the aging. Of course, she is still very much hands on, proving no one needs a Lamborghini when they’ve got home delivery of all the happy they can handle.
Maybe we should all take Ruby’s work as an example. Are there elderly neighbors you could help? Is there a struggling family near you? Perhaps you could be the one to grant their wishes. Perhaps sharing your extra produce, a night of babysitting, or a hand helping them repair a lawn mower or car would make all the difference in the world. Maybe a battery jump-start in the morning when they are running late, or a meal delivered when they are working late would make their day. Or maybe a new pair of shoes or a sweater for a nursing home resident would be a blessing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to help someone. Sometimes, giving our time and expertise is the most valuable gift we can give.
And as Jesus tells us, we reap what we sow. And we all sow love.