I didn’t really want to go.
It’s such a waste.
We parked amidst an ocean of cars and made our way to the door.
A banner hung over the entrance with that famous red and white shield and the words “Doing The Most Good”
Yeah right; doing the most good? Maybe out on the street or down at the mission, but here? With us? As much as Jesus loves people, even He wouldn’t show up for something like this.
My wife and I stepped aside and held the door for an elderly couple to shuffle through.
The man pushed a walker; he had a silver beard like Santa, but Abe Lincoln tall. I thought he looked like someone who’d smoke a pipe, play chess and spent a life time sailing.
When he got midway through, he stopped. He turned, in slow motion, his blue eyes pierced mine.
At that moment all went quiet. I stood there, holding the door, and he stood there, holding up the line.
Finally, after an eternity of three seconds or four, he nodded and smiled, “Why thank you, young man.”
I can’t explain it, but it was like he really meant it, from way down deep inside. I could feel it.
His wife stood behind, her hand on his back. She smiled at him and then at me, “My oh my, what a kind gentleman.” She was lovely and graceful and the tremor in her voice reminded me of Katharine Hepburn.
I smiled, my wife chuckled, and the two eased on through, as one.
We stepped into a Fellowship Hall where a handful of ladies were handing out tickets, “For the free drawing—thank you for volunteering.”
Abe and Katharine stopped. “You two young’uns go on ahead, me and my gal will tag along behind.”
She patted his back and lifted a comfortable smile.
I told them it was alright, we weren’t in a hurry, but he insisted, so we went ahead.
From there we were swept into the flow of hundreds of people filling plates from long tables filled with food…that could’ve been used to feed the hungry, instead of folks like us, who obviously hadn’t missed a meal in a long, long time, if ever.
The chatter quieted as folks paused to take a bite and chew in harmony with gospel hymns serenaded by The Volunteer Salvation Army Brass Quartet.
We made our way toward an empty table near the front. I paused to say “thank you for your service” to a couple young men in uniform. They thanked me right back.
My wife, Roxy, waited at the table until I sat down. Without saying a word, she reached out and with her hand in mine we bowed our heads and gave thanks. The others at our table must’ve noticed because the talking ceased until we were through. I appreciated that, and told them so.
We’d just started to eat when I noticed Abe with two plates full of food resting on the seat of his walker.
His gal was tagging along, carrying two cups of coffee. Suddenly she stopped, her hands started to shake. She held the cups out away from her as coffee splashed, the more it splashed, the more she shook.
I dropped my fork and hustled. “Can I—”
She held the cups toward me, her eyes said, please.
I took the cups and headed toward a stack of napkins on the last table. I tossed the cups in the trash and grabbed half the stack. I heard her precious voice tell Abe, “Stand right here—so no one slips.”
When I turned around Katharine was right behind me. I told her I’d take care of it, but she just smiled at me, and then, at the napkins and held out a trembling hand.
I placed half the napkins in her hand, and when I did, she grabbed my hand in both of hers. The world stopped again, like it did when Abe stopped midway through the door.
It seemed in that moment that her trembling stopped…and mine began. Her eyes glistened as her smile reached her eyes, “Thank you.”
I don’t know why, but just like before, I’d never been thanked quite like that. It kind of left me breathless.
She turned and led the way back to her husband.
I slid the napkins back and forth across the spill. Before I was through, the sweet lady, with some effort, was on her knees and wiping too.
“Ma’am I can get—”
She shook her head and held up her hands. “I want to help.”
Her eyes dropped to her trembling hands. “I should’ve known not to trust you to carry the coffee.” Then, she smiled.
I looked at her, and then her hands.
She lifted her shoulders up and down, “They’re not too good for hauling coffee—” she smiled big and bright like a child—“but they’re great for ringing bells.”
And then she laughed right out loud. It was one of those laughs that make you laugh right out loud too, even if nothing’s funny.
I did…and somewhere in there I forgot that I didn’t want to be there.
Her sweet voice trembled again, “Thank You—”
“I’m just glad I could—” but then, I realized, she wasn’t talking to me.
Her eyes were closed; her hands were folded—“for the kindness of this young man. You are so good to us.” She looked at me. But spoke to Him. “Do him some good.”
I kept wiping the floor, but felt like I needed to wipe my eyes.
She smiled, handed me her wad of napkins and looked up at Abe.
He kept one hand on the walker, reached out with the other and helped his gal, to her feet.
Then, he looked me square in the eye, like he did at the door, “Thank you young man.” He squeezed his eyes shut and repeated those same words. “Do him some good.”
Now, I grew up going to a little church. If the doors were open, we were there, in our old wooden pew. So, I’ve been prayed for a time or two…or a thousand and twenty. All kinds of prayers; long, short, loud, quiet, hands on, hands off, spit flying, bad breath or just as quiet as a whisper with breath as sweet as honey, you name it, I’ve been through it …but never, not once in all those years, had I ever felt prayed for, like I felt prayed for at that moment.
Back at the table we finished our meal while the Major stood behind a microphone and told us about the thousands fed and clothed and sheltered, but with every topic the main theme wasn’t about them and what they’d done, but...us. No matter what he was talking about he’d always swing back around to the same recurring theme, “we couldn’t do it without our volunteers, thank you.”
The brochure on the table caught my eye; Salvation Army Volunteer Luncheon. Under the red shield were those words again, Doing The Most Good. I read that part again, but in my head I heard the words of Jesus, “Greater works than these shall you do.”
I always wondered about that. How could anyone do greater works than Jesus? Healing the sick, opening blind eyes, raising the dead, walking on water, catching a boatload of fish? Yet, He said it, and He’s no liar. But, why now? Why’d those words come to me now?
I looked around that room filled with folks eating and talking and laughing. I watched it all. A lady delivered fresh coffee to Abe and Kat. A couple of men hauled empty plates to the trash. A guy pulled out the chair for his pregnant wife and a lady cleaned off a table. A small group had gathered around the soldiers, they were shaking hands and patting shoulders. Like an instant replay, in my mind, I watched myself hold the door and wipe the floor. And about then the band was playing the old familiar hymn, Make me a blessing.
While watching and listening to all of them and all of that, it occurred to me, that if Jesus were here, He’d do this. He’d have a meal, for his volunteers; to hold their hand, to laugh, to cry, to look them in the eye, to wait on tables. It’d be just like Him to turn a simple gift into a great big feast.
My eyes wandered around the room again until they landed on Abe and Kat…and I saw Him, in them, all of them; from the ladies at the door handing out tickets, to the men hauling trash…and believe it or not, even in the guy who was wiping the floor—the guy who had showed up with a bad attitude, thinking it was such a waste.
I whispered my new favorite prayer, “Do ‘em some good.” The words I’d read somewhere from the book of Acts came rolling back, Jesus went about doing good.
All of a sudden I wanted to share the moment. I snapped a picture of the brochure and posted it to Facebook. Comments started to roll in right away, one of which said:
“What would the world do without volunteers?”
Without thinking, I replied:
“In a word, I'd say: Die.
But, thank God, it's already been done, by The Greatest Volunteer there's ever been:
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Willingly He volunteered for you, for me, for…the salvation of an army.
So together, as a family, as a His body, we can go about, doing the most good.