There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!

I don’t usually write about controversial things. I like my blogs to be pleasant and funny and inspirational. However, there are times that I wonder and I puzzle and I freak out about things that irritate me. We all have those little things that irritate us and we keep silent because we don’t want to offend anyone. We don’t want to make our friends mad. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter and it is just us. We are the only ones bothered by some things, small things that are happening.

In the past years I have observed the “something” that irritates me many times. I have expressed my opinion openly at organizations and functions that I have attended and groups that I have volunteered at, many times to be scoffed at and told I am being ridiculous, overly sensitive. Perhaps I am and perhaps I need to let what is irritating me go on into the abyss. I appear to be one of the few that has a problem with donation baskets sitting at a place before the plates, before someone can pick up their meal, at functions that are publicized as free, so that those that do not have the means to pay for a meal can be fed.

This mornings devotion that I read by Max Lucado put into words what I have been feeling for a long time. This is this mornings devotion. I will post the mp3 link at the end of this blog. Here is what he said:

When people are refused access to Christ by those closest to him, the result is empty, hollow religion.  Ugly religion.

Hard to believe?  Yet it happens—even in the church. It happens when a church spends more time discussing the style of its sanctuary than it does the needs of the hungry. It happens when a church is known more for its stance on an issue than its reliance upon God. It happens when we think Jesus has more important things to do than to be bothered by such insignificant people.

Christ thought otherwise. Jesus felt sorry for the blind men and touched their eyes, and at once they could see.  In that moment, of all the people, it was the blind who really saw Jesus.

From And The Angels Were Silent

This devotion hit a nerve inside of me that has been nudging me for a long time. We, in our churches and communities advertise things for free and we say we don’t expect people to pay, but do we? Maybe the devotion was a nudge to write this blog about something that has bothered me for a long time. Why do we have such a hard time giving something away to those who need it? We say we don’t but the suggestion is front and center that nothing is free.

Perhaps we don’t really believe that there are those that can’t pay. Perhaps we don’t really believe that those in need live among us in our communities and our churches because they dress well, are clean, and appear to not have any problems. Can’t we always tell those in need by the way they dress? Do we look at them as the people from “there” and not those “who belong depending on how they dress?” Is there a distinction if you put everyone in a room sharing a free meal?

It’s not always easy attending what is supposed to be a free meal and watching those ahead of you in line dropping in a $10 or $20 bill. If you have pride, you want to avoid that feeling that maybe once, you could do that but at this point, you may need that free meal and it is hard to swallow that pride and walk past that basket.

If I put myself in that person’s shoes and maybe I am too sensitive, but few would know that at times money for food has been scarce in my life and I have looked at that basket and felt bad because I could not contribute. Instead of enjoying the meal I felt ashamed that I was at a point in my life that I have never been at before and I could not afford the $10.00 or the $20.00 to drop in that basket.

I live in a rural area where people have pride and are used to taking care of themselves. We have good, caring people in our communities that want to help. There are times perhaps the only way we can help is to put ourselves in each others shoes. We need look beyond the clothing, what we have always known to be true and get past our ideas that perhaps what we are doing is always the right way.

I have never been homeless. We, for the most part have always been able to pay our bills. I do not know what it is like to walk in those shoes. I have not been hungry, just grocery challenged at times when a free meal was welcomed. Those that read this might not believe that I am telling the truth about being financially challenged at times in our life. We have businesses, we are educated, we live in a nice house, we pay our bills and we might look to the world like we always have it together or maybe we just think we look that way. But we have had those times when our situation was iffy.  That is why I say that we need to look beyond that donation basket at the beginning of a line of people that appear that they can afford to drop in some money.

Rural communities are a wonderful place to live. They take care of each other. People in rural communities have pride and they have always paid their way. We don’t see the homeless on the streets. We don’t have people begging on the streets for money for food. But they are there. Our food shelves are busy. We take a few hours out of our week to pack lunches for the school children. We take a few hours out of our week to open our food shelves and provide meals. We take great pride in the fact that we house food shelves and put on free meals so others can eat. We do that but we don’t really take the time to try and put ourselves in their place and understand what a collection basket possibly conveys to those attending the meal or even having coffee. It is free but it conveys the idea that you should pay.

I am not saying we don’t need donations to fund coffee hour, or the free community meals. We do. There has to be a better way to ask for donations such as a sign that says “If you want to make a donation to this meal, please leave your money  at the basket by the door on the way out. It is less intrusive and more private. No one sees who gives and no one is made to feel inadequate. Just an idea.

How does Max Lucado’s devotion tie into this. This devotion gave me pause in wondering what is important in my life. Do I discuss the sanctuary more than the needs of the hungry? Do I rely on God for help in this area? And do I go along with the thinking that Jesus is more important than being bothered by such insignificant people? And if I do, what can I do to change that?

Writing this blog post is a start.

What can you do?

There is a saying and it is this; “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

Where will you find the donation basket the next time you attend a “free meal”?

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