Engaging with homeless people I encounter has become a joy and a passion for me. My friend Bobby Hegedish has discovered a similar calling. I think you will love his story of a homeless veteran.
I rarely pass by a Red Kettle without putting in a gift.
Yesterday I had to run to Publix once more for some things for my grandkids before they headed home. The person at the Red Kettle was Jose. (I love to chat with the people with the kettles.)
Jose is from Cuba, and has not been in this country a long time. Why does he spend hours ringing a bell? Because some people helped him when he was very needy in Cuba. He likes to be able to pass it on to others in need.
The Red Kettle had its start in San Francisco in 1891. Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. He determined to provide Christmas dinner for the poor.
But how to pay for it? He remembered from his years in Liverpool, England, a large iron pot at the docks for people to drop a few coins for the poor. Thus the Red Kettle was born—and was so successful that it spread throughout the U.S. and to the world. Everywhere, contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.
I love giving to the Red Kettle—and the Salvation Army—because they really do what their slogan says: Doing the Most Good. In the U.S., the Salvation Army assists more than 4.5 million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods with meals and other needs.
But that’s not all—the Army provides shelters, job training and connections, disaster relief, thrift stores, adult rehab, veterans services, prison ministries, elderly services, children’s services, youth camps, after school programs and more.
All this is done at amazing cost efficiency—almost all of your dollar goes directly to these services.
And it is all motivated by the love of Christ.
So look for the Red Kettle and give a gift! So many will be blessed. Including you!
When I turned 70 more than a year ago, I committed to writing posts throughout the year on the words of my life. I kept going for a few more months because Wow! I had no idea how many words were significant for my life. This will make 33.
This will be my last word in this series (though I’m sure there could be more). I believe this is the summary word—the one that has come to cover so many aspects of my life.
This was not a word from my early life. I wanted my own way and pursued it relentlessly. I wasn’t usually mean, but I didn’t give a lot of grace.
I didn’t have much grace either. I couldn’t dance (still can’t). My friend Susan and I would compete for “clutziest” title. It seemed strange—I was quite athletic, but it didn’t give me any grace of movement.
When I met Jesus in high school, I began to get a glimpse of grace. After all, I was “saved by grace through faith.”
I remember sitting by the pool at Arrowhead Springs, looking out over the valley, asking, “Why me, God? Why am I so blessed, so privileged?” Another hint at grace.
Looking back over the years, I see how the grace of God protected me from some wrong choices: He extracted me from the wrong crowd in high school. He said if I married the good man I was engaged to, I wouldn’t be able to do what He wanted me to do. More grace.
And the work God called me to: living my dream to be a magazine writer and editor—for Him! Amazing privilege to work with Bill Bright! Meeting humble servants of God, writing about what God was doing in people’s lives, all over the globe.
It didn’t feel like grace when I waited and waited for Steve Douglass to decide we should get married. But when he (finally) proposed to me, I was overcome with God’s grace to give me such a man.
Children are great grace instructors. It took a lot of grace to make it through Debbie’s first months—a hurting tummy and constant tears. Gratefully Michelle slept much of her first year—a kind grace from the Lord. And they have been grace to me throughout their lives.
As is true for all of us, comprehending something of the grace of God takes a journey—sometimes a long one. God didn’t give up on me—He kept pouring it on, opening my eyes and heart to see grace and even showed me how to give grace to others.
My greatest teacher? Our son, Josh.
Oh, the grace.
God gave grace to this boy to lift him out of his unstable situation into a home where he received love and security and many advantages.
It was grace to me to send me what I needed to go much deeper in understanding how God has shed His grace on me. Grace to endure and persevere through Josh’s wilderness journey.
Grace for me to give, extend, repeat, offer, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes through tears, but increasingly freely and joyfully.
The grace to give and to receive that I learned from Josh has been extended broadly and deeply to family, friends, coworkers, strangers. I understand more each day that God calls us to be His arms of grace to all those we encounter.
And yes, to me. Oh the grace He keeps giving. Including a grandgirl named Grace!
Which makes me dance for joy. I may not always look grace-full, but I know my life has been full of grace.
What about you? Where have you seen grace in your life?
C2015 Judy Douglass
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He was sitting outside my Publix grocery store.
He was elderly, in a wheelchair. Few if any teeth. Not shaven. Grocery bags hanging on the back and sides of his wheelchair.
As I approached the door to the store, he did not speak to me or ask me for anything. So I approached him and said, “Is there anything I can do for you, Sir?”
He smiled. ‘Yes, please.,” he said. “I would be grateful for a loaf of bread. I prefer Nature’s Own Butter Bread, but whatever you could get would be so good. And an extra plastic bag, please.” He assured me he would be there when I came out.
So I went about my shopping, quickly finding the bread he preferred. As I passed through the aisles looking for my items, I noticed things he might appreciate: peanut butter for that bread, some plasticware to spread that peanut butter, napkins (red), a couple of individual boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and a small bottle of milk, bananas—soft to chew, a box of soft granola bars, a couple of juice boxes.
And just before I checked out I was drawn to the good smells coming from the deli and got him some fresh chicken strips. All that required three grocery bags (the bread needed its own), so he not only got his desired bread and two extra bags, but also a few other nutritious treats. And a $10 bill in the bottom of a bag.
When I came out with three bags for him, his grin expanded. I asked him where to hang these bags, and he told me what to put where. I then offered him the chicken strips and he was delighted.
I said, “Sir, is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, no,” he said. “This is wonderful. Thank you so much. God bless you.”
“And God bless you, Sir,” I replied with my biggest smile.
His gratitude was effusive and my joy was overflowing as I left him with a prayer.
So why do I tell you this story? So you think I am kind and generous? No, though I do desire to be kind and generous.
Everything I read about homeless people is that they feel invisible. People not only don’t speak to them, but look the other way.
Yet it takes so little effort to speak to them, to address them respectfully. Yes, to give a little or a lot to meet a need, but more to acknowledge they are people, to regard their humanity, to honor their dignity.
My gift to him, gathered as I shopped for myself, totaled no more than $25. So little.
Did I do this perfectly? Probably not. Could I have done more? Surely. Do I still have lots to learn? Of course.
Yet I hope he felt my love and respect and rejoiced not only in his physical needs being addressed, but that he was seen, that he did not feel invisible.
What about you? How can you “see” those in need around you?
C2015 Judy Douglass
Image from streetroots.org
In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life.
My grandchildren are coming to visit in a couple of weeks. I spent two hours today choosing some new things for them to play with when they are here.
Some friends in New York are doing a creative outreach for women in that amazing city. I gave a little to help make it happen.
Our Compassion daughter in Haiti had a birthday recently. Of course I sent a gift.
The homeless man in the wheelchair needed someone to talk to more than the bit of money I gave him. I entered into his loneliness for a few minutes.
A sweet girl I love loves horses (I get that!). A friend of mine does a fun horse camp each summer. I treated her to a week with horses.
I could go on. I’m rather addicted to giving. It is one of the greatest joys of my life.
From time to time my husband reminds me that we do not have unlimited resources. But I remind him that God does.
And surely this passion to give is a gift from God.
I had a great model: my mother. She was one of the most generous people I know. I’m sure that she sacrificed her own needs many times in order to give to me and my sisters. And to all her grandchildren.
And God has encouraged, exhorted, commanded us to give—generously, cheerfully, sacrificially. (2 Corinthians 9:7, 11; 1 Timothy 6:8; Mark 12:42-43). I love to give generously and cheerfully, though I don’t think I have ever given truly sacrificially
But surely I have been blessed by the Spirit with a gift of giving. I am grateful.
In reality, though, we are not wealthy by our culture’s standards. Actually that is intentional. My husband and I each committed our lives to God—all we are and have and will be belongs to Him. And when we married, in our first planning time together, we made this a goal: to not pursue wealth.
God has been kind to give me resources occasionally to give financially. But He also reminds me often that there are many ways to give:
I love to give meaningful gifts—something that says “I know you and this is just right for you.”
I can give wise advice, which I am usually very glad to do. Hopefully when it is requested.
Words of encouragement and blessing come easily to me—I love to share them.
Time is more valuable than money, and I have many opportunities to give myself in real time. Sometimes this is challenging for me—I say too easily, “That’s not in the schedule.”
A great gift is to listen. My ministry responsibilities involve a lot of speaking, and many moments to sit and listen.
For many people a hug is a welcome gift.
As are tears. That is frequently the kindest thing I can do—weep with someone who weeps.
And I can pray. What an amazing gift—to bring a person to the throne of God, asking Him to touch their lives, meet their needs, comfort them, cover them with His grace.
My response? That’s easy. Just as we say “Thank you” for gifts given to us, so my heart is filled with gratitude that God has asked me to give.
What about you? When do you find joy in giving?
C 2014 Judy Douglass