How long does God need to fill a space…to stir an emotion…to connect two people…to affect someone so deeply that their life is changed?
Today I volunteered in the clothing room at a local transitional homeless shelter. The clients who come in are people who have met with a social worker through the shelter and who can simply drop in and look around at the clothing and take two of each item, each day (top/bottom/shoes/accessories/etc.). The room is small, so only three people are allowed in at a time, and each person is allowed ten minutes.
A lot can happen in ten minutes. Really.
In ten minutes, I can introduce myself to someone like they matter, or simply ask their name without eye contact, write their name down and tell them the rules.
In ten minutes, I can ignore a person’s existence, or offer help with finding a particular size or style of clothing or make small talk about the weather.
In ten minutes, I can smile at someone, or quickly turn my head away.
In ten minutes, people can get in a fight, or laugh and tell stories.
In ten minutes, God can infiltrate a space so strongly that there’s no denying the presence of the divine.
In ten minutes, love can happen.
I met a woman today who was so nervous about an upcoming job interview that she was struggling to figure out what clothes to put together…or what she would say or do…. And by my simply asking if I could help her find a particular item, God pushed whatever boundaries existed between us before and covered us in love and care.
I encountered a woman today who had several conversations going on inside her head all at once, who was volatile and distressed. She could not find her size and no one was allowed to help her. My heart hurt. There was no redeeming moment.
Several men came in asking for socks…or looking for pants…there were none.
It was a hard morning…probably the most difficult of all the ones I’ve been there. Yet, I felt God so much more strongly today than I have of all the days I’ve been there.
In this small space no bigger than my apartment, God brought people together; God provided clothing and shelter from the rain. God opened our eyes to the value of the other, and reminded me of the importance of recognizing and honoring all people. We could all use a daily reminder of that.
How often do we forget that the strangers at whom we honk or cuss or roll our eyes or objectify, dehumanize, or cut down (if only in our minds), are people whom God made…beautifully and wonderfully. So let’s treat them that way.
Take a deep breath. Step out of your frustration, fear, pride, and selfishness. And put on love. Put on mercy, grace, forgiveness, kindness, patience, humility, and peace.
It takes less than ten minutes.