Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Giving it a Face...

(I feel like I need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of this blog, as it's been rolling around in my head for the last 30 hours...I in no way want to imply that I'm super-spiritual because I did a service project on Tuesday...nor am I implying that those who went to see the President are unspiritual....these are just some big feelings and thoughts and GOD-moments that clicked in my life yesterday, and I needed to record it to help me think through it all...)

So, yesterday was a big day. An illuminating day. An historic day, even. The President of the United States and about 20,000 of his closest Illinois friends gathered downtown for the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Many of my friends went, and as I listened to the festivities on the radio, I found myself kind of wishing I had made plans to be a part of it (After all, how often do you get to see 15 Abraham Lincoln impersonators in one place?!).


Instead, I volunteered to do a Meals on Wheels route. I guess because some of the regular volunteers were attending the Museum thing, they were short handed, and especially because this social action thing has been bothering me lately, I thought it'd be good to pitch in.

First of all, I was the youngest volunteer there by at least 20 years....they had about 15 different routes, with 7-9 stops on each route. They gave me a detailed map, one of those insulated oven things for hot meals, and another one for sack lunches. I pictured the people I'd be delivering to....people like my grandma....sweet and old and maybe they'd wanna talk about the weather or the President or offer me a piece of candy...I'd be kind and talk for a few minutes and then on to the next stop.

I did meet a couple of grandmas.

One just got out of the hospital and had a hard time making it to the door. Another had her daughter visiting from Indiana. I went to a trailer park for one stop....a run-down, cold looking trailer with a big fence around the perimeter. No one answered the door, so I left the food on the porch, hoping someone wasn't dying on the floor inside...I mean, if they need strangers to bring them food, then who makes sure they're not sick or injured?? (being alone and in less-than-familiar neighborhoods makes me a little paranoid!!)

All along my route, I was listening to the speeches and bands and politicians at the Museum who were on the radio....hearing about the excitement in the air, the political maneuvering, the expense of it all...

Then I drove to the Pioneer Motel on Peoria Road. It's one of those old motels that people actually live in. I pulled in and looked for #1. I got out of my mini-van and thought for a second that I was in Juarez, Mexico...the parking lot had potholes the size of Lake Springfield....trash everywhere....screen doors hanging off their hinges....small children and animals roaming around without much supervision....people sitting in some of the Motel rooms looking at me...yelling at people in the rooms....watching loud tvs.....

I knocked on the door and heard a television inside and some voices, but couldn't make out what they were saying.

Finally I heard a male voice yell "Open the door!!!"

Scared to death, I opened the door to find a man laying in a hospital bed, in the middle of this filthy, cluttered motel room. He was laying in the bed, watching television, wearing a t-shirt and and adult diaper. He had no teeth and was extremely thin....my mind was racing...does he have AIDS? Is this place dangerous? Mostly, though, I didn't think at all...I just slapped on a nervous smile and asked him where he'd like his meal. He asked me to put it "over there", so I took about 2 steps into the room (making sure to keep the door open behind me) and put the food on a chair covered with clothes and papers and trash. "Alright! Have a nice day!" was all I could get out, and I made my get-away.

As I drove away my mind started racing with questions like, how did God want me to minister to that man? what should I have said? should I have engaged in a conversation with him? offered to help him in some way?

mostly, I wondered why I got so freaked out. I mean, I'm the campus minister chick, right? I do service projects, mission trips all the time.

I think, I just had no idea it was like that in Springfield, Illinois.

As I drove back, I heard a reporter say that Air Force 1 had just taken off....and about a minute later, it appeared directly in front of my car...huge, impressive, strong.

It was interesting to be experiencing these 2 very different things at the same time: Seeing the poor and hungry in Springfield, and listening to politicians talk about the importance of this monumental occasion on the radio.

And with all of this conversation about how do we change the world, how do we address poverty and hunger and hopelessness around the world, God used Tuesday to show me that I could do it through Meals on Wheels...granted, I'm not sure I made the biggest difference that day, but I brought some people food, gave them a smile (even if I was scared to death!!), tried to be loving.....I mean, that's what we're saying needs to happen, right? We each need to find a way to get involved, right?!

I'm still not sure what I learned yesterday or what God wants to show me. I just know it was a big day. An illuminating day. An historic day, even.

1 comment:

Michael Tosh said...

Gretchen,

I grew up in a trailer park...I was well off compared to many of the kids in my neighborhood...I still spend a lot of time there...many of my friends don't have jobs now I wish they were doing better, some are still in same boat they were years ago...some of my friends growing up didn't even have power in their houses half the time...many of their family members were drunks or abusive...I never once saw anyone come and try to help anyone in the trailer park...as far as we were conserned no one cared...but then something happened...I remeber a time when some people form the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints came...It only happened once...and they were looking for the hispanics in the trailer park...I disagree with them on a lot of issues...I don't like their twist on Christianity, but I can tell you that a lot of kids I knew respected them for that. Most didn't say a word, some even frowned...but in the end I talk to them alone...and some of us admited really respected them...not to many people came to try to help us out...all the charity work in town for some reason never came to our section of town...2 guys came for one day just looking for certain people to preach to...I wasn't even one of them...I NEVER FORGOT THAT...I felt like someone cared...something outside my family and friends I wasn't that used to...believe me when I say someone really respected you for what you did tuesday...

I feel like God wanted me to share this with you...you see I realized something just now...I think God wanted you to see what was around you..I think that...but more importantly I think God wanted some people...flawed and sick people...to know someone cared.

God Bless