Iredell Christian Ministries

My wonderful friend Susie Wiberg, who has her heart on the pulse of needs in the community, gave me a quick tour of Iredell Christian Ministries this morning. Awesome to see the vibrance of this organization, as people can come by to get food and other things they need to take care of their family.

One of the big needs at the moment is dog food. I know some folks are a bit judgmental of people having pets while struggling to feed themselves and their family, but before judgment think of how many people are one paycheck away from being in their circumstance. Also think of where strays are often dumped (often near low income neighborhoods.) Think of how much comfort your pets give you, when sadness or illness or struggle hits. I know a lot of compassionate people, so I know we can meet this need.

You can either drop off a donation at ICM (Monday or Tuesday 9-12 a.m.,), or even order on Amazon and get it shipped right there. Big bags are good….they break them down to about 10 lb. bags for the people.

Also if you have clothes or toys or household items you are getting rid of, or extra personal items you cannot use, they have a “free for the taking” section where you can drop things off. I had a couple of blood donation T-shirts (I never want them myself but get the largest sizes available for just this purpose) in my car and when I hung them I I noticed that there wasn’t much there. (One thing I usually tell people….donate new or gently used items, not your rags. Use those for rags! People deserve items of dignity.)

Address for ICM is:

752 Old Salisbury Rd

Statesville, NC 29677

They are located behind the Partnership for Young Children.

If you’re not in our community, you can still donate, but look for a like-minded organization who is serving the poor in your area. This is a universal need.

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Stealing the Purpose

My niece Sara recently posted a video on Facebook about a visit to Publix.  We’re a family of independent women (well, other than I am hopeless with any home or craft projects and always am begging for help there) and to have someone push our grocery cart to the car when we are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves just seems wrong. She was a bit stunned to realize that when the cashier said she was happy to take her groceries to the car, she really meant it. The cashier really liked that part of her job. To say no hurt her feelings a bit. Providing that kind of customer service is important to Publix and their company culture is based on it (well, at least they said that when they moved into Statesville). I suspect it does make their employees happier.. There is joy in doing nice things for other people or in knowing your work brought a smile to someone’s face. Sata said yes and they had a good discussion about being willing to receive help.

I hate when I hear a friend has struggled in some area where it would have been simple for me to help. It’s a bit deflating…because I feel they don’t trust me as a friend. I believe that’s part of friendship…and part of family. When I say “Call me if you need me”, I mean it. On one hand I understand they don’t want to bother me, because I do the same to others. But when they do that, they are also denying me the opportunity to care for them. And we should look out for each other. I like to take care of my friends…. or anyone who needs it.

I’m not usually the person who can often force myself into a situation. “Introvert respect”, I guess you would call it. Because sometimes I don’t want people around (such as when I am sick or in the hospital), that is my default in most relationships. I forget others are different. That sometimes people need someone just to be there for them. That sometimes people need to know people are there to care for them. And we all deserve to be cared for. Even this introvert loves her time with other people and enjoys the sweet gift of another’s time or a a gesture of caring. (Just maybe not all day, every day.)

Usually when I have had friends or family that were facing a serious illness, they have never wanted people to do things for them. At least that is what they said. Maybe they would allow the closest of family, their spouse for instance, but that was it. And the spouse, already emotional themselves, was burning themself out.

Someone told me of one person, though, that started making lists. She was sick, but she understood the need of people to show her they loved her….and it was great. If you asked if there was anything you could do for her, she would get out her list and say “If you could get me a box of notecards and some stamps, that would be great” or “How about bringing dinner on Friday? If I feel well enough, I’d love you to stay and eat with us, but also know I may not feel up to it. Can we play that part by ear?” or “The kids really could use a fun activity. Can you plan something?” or “We’re about out of toilet paper. Could you pick us up a few rolls?” or “We’re going to be away for three days for these treatments. Could you get our mail?” She kept people bustling and they kept going back for more. It was a sweet time for all….and they bonded more because of it. She created community….and they all got through it together.

I admit I am usually bad at this sort of thing….both giving and receiving. I want to give, but for most people I am always hesitant. I make feeble attempts, but have no great thoughts of what people really need. It’s like my brain becomes paralyzed. Plus I am a bad shopper….so hate things like gift giving. I like practical tasks.

I’m not always good at receiving either. Yet sometimes I need someone to keep me on task. To sit there and make sure I stay focused on things. Or frankly, sometimes “the overwhelms” hit and I need them to do it for me.

For a certain period of time in my life, I moved five times in five years. Most of those were company moves, so they would often do the packing and moving part. But I couldn’t let them unpack for me (even the times the company had included that) because I get a bit freaked out about the moving process. I don’t know what I would have done without family and friends. More than once my mom unpacked my kitchen and put those things away for me. A kitchen that is put together goes a long way to making you feel at home. My dad would set up the washer and dryer. My college roommate Ann came for several moves and once, after repeated attempts by me to distract her and get her to go do fun things instead of unpacking, she said to me “Go get a book, and sit in that chair, be quiet, and read. I am going to unpack boxes.” And unpack she did. What a wonderful gift. And she seemed to like going through my stuff and putting it away. Or maybe she liked doing things for her friend. I suspect it may be more of the latter….though I prefer to think the former, as though I was giving her a gift in letting her unpack for me and put my home together!
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We are meant for community.  Communities are at their best when they give to each other and receive. The healthiest have balance, and all give and are at times in a position to receive, During my 20s none of my friends could afford movers. Many Saturdays were spent with a crowd of us getting together to help someone move. It was even fun.My roommate and I had a paint party when we moved into a new house. I never lifted a paintbrush. If anyone knows of my painting skills, you know my friends were saving me from myself. Instead I cooked….and went from room to room talking and laughing with everyone. It was a great time and produced some fun memories.

I have made a large number of my friends while volunteering. Some of the activities were not pleasant or generally my idea of a good time. But for some reason we had fun. A job needed to be done and we did it together. Or we did it for a good cause. Because someone couldn’t do it for themself. Or because they needed a reason to smile.

I love the concept of random acts of kindness. I think my 2018 goal is to do more of them. To find a need and meet it. To find someone who has lost their smile, and help them find it. So often the smallest of things can pick someone up.

I was at work many years ago and one of the gentlemen who worked with me came by to see if I had change for a dollar. I was fighting severe migraines at the time (later I figured out they were caused by the sugarless mints I had been eating) and was feeling horrible. He didn’t know this, but was simply his normal warm self. He walked out of my office and I burst into tears. I remember it still 30 years later. Those were tears of thanksgiving….he was simply kind on a day I needed kindness (even if he thought he was just getting change for a dollar.) Those simple interactions can change the course of someone’s day. Do you remember some of those times in your own life? If not, think on things a bit…..and remember.

Let us be thankful for each other. Let us give…..and receive. Because sometimes receiving gives someone a wonderful gift. Purpose.Don’t steal it from them.

Don’t End The Story Too Soon

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

I was in my twenties. Poor. Not poor like many in their twenties today…. living independently on my paltry salary and poor enough that I would get my paycheck and would have about $15 for incidentals after bills were paid. That needed to last two weeks. Most of my friends were just as poor as me….we bonded over free and cheap food and entertainment. It was one of the best times of my life. We lived in crappy apartments or houses, with one or more roommates, and would pass possessions around as we each had need of them. We’d go through each other’s Goodwill bags. The 80s version of communal living. Some of my very best friends came into my life during that time. It was an important time of life for me. I think many parents today do a disservice to their kids when they try to protect them and don’t allow them to experience those years. There are a lot of lessons to be learned when you “have not”…and a lot of character to build along the way.

I had a friend who needed money. $300. A fortune to me. Because of many hours of working overtime, I had built up an amount in my bank account just over that (maybe $325!) I didn’t hand it over quickly. It was precious and the first time I had a bit of a nest egg. But she said no one else would lend her the money. I had already determined I wanted to be generous in my life, so I did it. I lent her the money. I never asked what it was for. I believed her when she said the money would be paid back in two weeks.

You may know what’s coming. Two weeks came and she didn’t have the money. I don’t think I said anything at all. I just waited. Time continued to go by. No word. Occasional promises to repay, but they were never met. No plan was ever formulated for getting it back to me. No dollar a week, until it was done. She continued to live quite well. Better than me, in fact. Her own apartment (while I had to have a roommate to make ends meet), beautiful clothes. Yet I still considered her a friend. And I still thought she would pay me back.

When I began to realize the payment didn’t seem to be forthcoming, it really wasn’t the money that bothered me. It was how I didn’t seem to matter to her. I still was struggling. I had a car that was forever breaking down. It broke down once again and I needed the money to pay for repairs. I finally went to her and asked for it. The first time I had done it directly. She said she didn’t have it. She had just put down a down payment for a house. She didn’t seem to see a problem with that. It was what finally broke my heart and made me walk away. Had she continued to pursue the friendship, I am sure I would have relented. But she didn’t….and finally I didn’t. I realized she was out of my life. Or maybe I realized I was out of hers.

I admit I was bitter for a while. Not for a long while, but long enough to realize I didn’t like feeling that way. I finally had a heart to heart with God. Yeah, I needed to change. While I didn’t think that meant going back and trying to re-kindle the friendship, I had to give up the bitterness. And the mental hold on the money. I learned to replace the negative feelings with praying for her good when she came to mind. That helped. I also remembered that I really own nothing. I am lent it by God. Yes, I earned my way by working….but still, it can all be gone tomorrow. It won’t mean anything on the other side of heaven…though I can enjoy it today as a good gift. So I had to accept the money as gone and move on with a joyful heart. Usually I was successful.

I learned a lot about being a good steward of my money going forward. To give generously, but judiciously. Not to lend money to people with money problems (if you can’t handle what you have, more will usually not help.) Not to lend money when the person had no direct plan to pay it back, a strong worth ethic, or a history of financial responsibility. Not to lend money I couldn’t afford to never see again. Not to lend money with the expectation that those who borrow it will pay it back. Not to lend money to people who I want in my life in the future.

But wait, there’s more….fast forward to today. I seldom use my laptop, since my iPad is so easy to use, but I had it out and noticed some Facebook messages I had never seen before. Evidently there is a separate box apart from my Inbox. Evidently messages from people who are not your Facebook friends go there. Evidently you don’t see this box on your iPad. There was a message from this former friend from last October. She said she lost touch and over time forgot my last name. She saw something about the balloon festival in Statesville and the reporter’s last name was McKinney (not sure who that was…but interesting. Especially since I had nothing to do with ballooning when I knew her.) She said the name clicked. She found my Facebook account and sent this message. She wanted to pay back the $300. She asked for my address.

Yes, it was a shock. A good one. Will I get it back? I hope so. It’s not the money that matters the most to me….it’s the fact that she really didn’t forget. That she has made some effort to do it. That it stayed in some part of her brain for over 20 years and on some level she cares about it all.

The old quote from Hamlet says “neither a borrower or a lender be” and I think there is some wisdom in that. I think instead we should be givers. Scripture tells us to give hilariously….and I think I have mentioned in a past blog that I love that concept. We should give until we’re so overcome with laughter at our own outrageousness that we are gasping to breathe. But you know, even then I think we need to engage our mind. At least some of us do….those who are capable or led that way. Perhaps others should give just as they feel, but that has never seemed right for me. I think we need to plant in good soil. Pay attention to where the seed is going. We need to give certain people a hand up. But I think part of giving hilariously is not to be so concerned about what happens with it when it leaves our hand. To sometimes throw it in the air with abandon and see where it falls. There are lessons to be learned from watching the results, certainly. I have made bad decisions in the past and learned from them. But we can’t get too hung up on making these mistakes….we learn and carry on. And regardless, we don’t let bitterness in. It’s only money….much less valuable than peace of mind.

But there is one more thing. The most important point here, I think. Don’t end a story before its time. It may not be over yet. When we think we have it all figured out, God surprises us. I thought my friend didn’t care to remember, but somewhere deep in her heart she did. It’s difficult to track someone down after 20 years to pay an old debt. But she has. She showed me by her message that she remembered some if the good parts of our friendship…that she still had the memories. I’m glad. I don’t ever expect my friends to be perfect, but when I see them doing the right thing? I can’t help but be proud. Regardless of how long it takes. My heart is touched….and I am glad my version of the story wasn’t entirely correct. This version makes me smile….and cry.