Part 12 in our "12 Days of Christmas" series
SNEEDVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 5, 2015) -- Fifteen more minutes and I would be closing the office to begin my Christmas holiday. I was looking forward to some time off. The flu season had taken its toll on the staff, and being the only one left standing, I was at the Jubilee Project office alone. Thankfully, the phone had been quiet -- until that moment.
“Can you help me with Christmas?” the caller wanted to know. Hoping she did not notice the frustration in my voice, I told her I was about to leave, but I would wait if she could hurry. She assured me she would be there in two minutes.
There is a room at Jubilee just down the hall on the left. We call it the emergency food room. It is the place where donations are kept handy to be given out. I stood in the doorway surveying the shelves and wondered what this woman might need. Even though I go in and out of that room many times a day, at that moment, God allowed me a fresh perspective on what grace-filled love is all about.
First, let me say that every item on those shelves, including the shelves, were gifts of love donated by churches, organizations and individuals from across the country. Second, let me beg forgiveness for not being able to name every donor and specific gift. Each one was an expression of extraordinary love.
The shelves were stocked with food. There were boxes of gloves and hats, new socks and underwear, handmade laundry soap and hygiene products, blankets and backpacks, shoes, toys and many other things. Bags and boxes spilled into the floor. The amazing thing about this moment of my epiphany was this: Just a week or so before, those shelves were almost empty. In a matter of days, gifts had poured in from everywhere, sometimes by the truckload, sometimes just one item at a time. Like the miracle of the loaves and fish, the supplies just kept coming in.
My caller was true to her word. Within a few minutes, she was standing in the lobby waiting for me. Her downcast face gave evidence to a life hard lived. She spoke quietly, never making eye contact. “I have three daughters, all teenagers.”
She started looking through a box we had in the lobby. Pulling out a pair of shoes, she said, “I think these will work. She really wears a size smaller, but these will work just fine.”
I went to our room and found the exact size for all three girls. In what seemed like a few minutes, we put together nice bags of goodies for each of her daughters.
“Now what about you,” I asked. “What size do you wear?”
She said she didn’t need anything, but I brought several sizes of shoes anyway just to see if something caught her eye. The smile on her face told me she found that something. We filled her bag with a pair of shoes, new socks, gloves and personal items as well as a warm blanket and some food.
It was getting dark when I helped her get her things to the car. Our “shopping trip” had taken well over an hour. My frustration was long gone, and in its place a sense of profound joy. She hugged me tightly and said, “I’m sorry I kept you over. I wouldn’t have had Christmas if you hadn’t been here.”
I hugged her just as tightly and said, “Please don’t apologize. I wouldn’t have had Christmas either if you had not been here.”
Do acts of extraordinary love make a difference in the lives others? Yes! Christmas confirms it. Redeeming grace has dawned for us all. Jesus our Savior is born!
The Rev. Marta Cogburn is interim director of Jubilee Project, a United Methodist mission in Hancock County, Tenn.