Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without all of the luxuries that you take for granted everyday.
Your morning coffee from Starbucks . . . gone.
That gourmet bagel that you can’t possibly start your day without . . . let’s get rid of that, too, along with all of the other food in your pantry and refrigerator.
Go ahead and throw away that adorable brand new outfit also . . . and don’t forget the matching purse, shoes, and the rest of the clothes in your closet except for the oldest and most worn outfit that you have. That one you can keep.
All of the super expensive toiletries . . . yep, trash them.
Now take some scissors to the debit card, credit card, checks and bank accounts.
The nice car sitting in front of your home . . . gone.
As a matter of fact, let’s take your home out of the picture as well.
Where does that leave you? Does that leave you hungry, dirty, broke and homeless?
It’s a good thing you have all of that fridge full of food to keep you from feeling the pangs of hunger, the expensive soaps and shampoos to keep you clean and smelling pretty, the change in your pocket to keep you from being broke, and a roof over your head to protect you from the hot summer sun and bitterly cold winds of winter. It certainly is a good thing . . .
But what about the people in your town or city . . . You know the ones that I am talking about. They are the ones that we see walking through downtown carrying all of their belonging in plastic grocery bags or in a shopping cart. They are the ones that we pretend not to see because they are dirty and don’t smell good. They are the ones who make their home in abandoned buildings and under bridges. They are the ones that we pretend not to see because to look at them would remind us that the blink of an eye would be all it took to put us in their position. They are the ones who freeze to death in the winter because they are sleeping outside while we are snuggled warmly in our bed. They are the ones who scavenge through our dumpsters and garbage cans hoping to make a meal from what we throw away. While we balk over the price of our morning latte they are sitting on corners begging for change to buy a little bit of food.
They are men and women. They are somebody’s son or daughter. They might be somebody’s mom or dad. They might be alcoholics or drug addicts, or they might be someone who fell on hard times and can’t get back up. They are homeless. They are hungry. They are fighters. They are people.
They are people just like you and me.
But many of you can’t even look at a homeless person. If we happen to see somebody who is homeless we turn up our nose in disgust to hide the fear that sets into our heart. We fear that their homelessness is a communicable disease that we might catch like a cold or the flu. We are scared that tomorrow those hard times could befall us and we could be the next one sitting on a corner in shabby clothes begging for change or sleeping under a bridge. But if we don’t look at them then they don’t exist and we can continue on happily with our day like an ostrich with its head stuck in the ground.
You may be asking yourself just what brought on this diatribe, especially since I usually stick to posting cheesy poetry and short stories and the latest pathetic drama going on in my life. Well, it was a story I saw on t.v a couple of days ago.
There is a woman in my town by the name of Martha. She has run a mission called Martha’s Vineyard for 24 years. It started out as just her cooking meals one day a week for the less fortunate people at her church. Then it grew into cooking a couple of days a week and volunteers helping her. Over time she outgrew the facilities of her church and had to move into her own building, thus was born Martha’s Vineyard. Everyday the Vineyard cooks meals for anyone who sits down at one of Martha’s tables. Volunteers go out into the neighborhoods every few days taking meals to those that can’t make it to the Vineyard. She makes up boxes of food for anyone who comes to her for help. I personally can attest to the heart that this woman has, as I have been the recipient of a couple of those boxes over the years.
She never turns anyone away that comes to her. She doesn’t judge anybody because of how they look or smell or because of how often they come to the Vineyard. For many of those people the meals that Martha and her volunteers prepare are the only meal that they get. Martha even gives up her Thanksgiving every year to make a big turkey dinner with all of the traditional sides. They serves that Thanksgiving dinner to anyone who shows up at her door and they deliver it out into the neighborhood.
Martha never asks for money in return for the meal that you enjoy at her table. She will ask that if you are able-bodied that you be willing to do some volunteer time making sandwiches, or putting together food boxes, or even sweeping the floor. If you can’t, or just don’t want to, she will never deny you a spot at her table.
Martha is doing the work that God put into her heart to do almost 25 years ago. She knows that she and her life have been blessed by the Lord and this is her way of giving back. She is truly being the hands and feet of God for many people who might go hungry if it weren’t for her. Those homeless people who you and I try not to see as we go through our day are welcomed at Martha’s Vineyard with a warm smile, and even warmer hug and a greeting like they had just showed up for a family reunion. Everybody deserves to be treated with respect and dignity no matter their financial situation or where they live, and that is something that Martha remembers everyday.
But Martha’s Vineyard has fallen on hard times itself. After a particularly hard winter for western Kentucky and now going into a very hot summer the Vineyard is feeling the pinch of rising utility costs paired with dwindling financial donations. Food donations are not a problem at all for Martha. People are always willing to drop off canned goods and other non-perishable. Plus she is one of the recipients of the “Groceries for Good” program that several of our local grocery stores sponsor in November. During the rest of the year one of the local grocery stores keeps her supplied with breads, fruits and vegetables, and meat. But those food donations don’t pay the bills. Nobody thinks about the fact that Martha has an electric bill, water bill, and gas bill just like you and I.
Martha is faced with the very real possibility of having to close the doors to the Vineyard by the end of this month. She has spent the last few months paying the utilities of her own personal bank account to make sure that the Vineyard stays open for those that need her. She has completely drained her bank account though. She doesn’t have enough money to keep the Vineyard open for another month. God in her heart to serve the people and she has given everything she has to that mission. Now she may have to close doors and do something that she has not done in 24 years . . . turn people away.
What a tragic loss it will be for our community if Martha has to close the Vineyard. Yes, there are food pantries that will pick up the slack, but they don’t have the heart that Martha has. They don’t share the word of God over a hot meal the way Martha will. They won’t ask about your family and have a conversation with you the way Martha always makes time to do. They won’t offer you a comforting hug and let you cry on their shoulder as your head hangs in embarrassment because you are having to hang up your pride and ask for help. Many of the food pantries will only help you if you meet their stringent list of requirements and qualifications, but Martha never turns anyone away. She always has a spot at her table for you. All you have to do it show up at her door.
Don’t you think that is a mission worth saving?
Take a moment to think about all the blessing that fill your life. Now think about what it would be like to not know where your next meal is coming from, or having to fight back your pride to ask for help feeding your kids because the paycheck just didn’t stretch to the grocery store. It’s a pretty scary though, isn’t it?
You don’t have to be in my town to help Martha with her mission. God calls us to help everyone, to love everyone the way He loves us. Martha has answered that call from God. Please help her continue in her work. Help keep her doors open.
Remember that one raindrop from many clouds can become a flood.
Until next time . . .