“You look happy.” That’s what BJ said to me after we exchanged our names at first introduction.
At that moment, Miriam, the director of the food pantry walked up to us and overheard BJ’s comment.
“Yes”, she confers, “you look happy.”
Me: I am happy.
We were just finishing up a long morning and afternoon of assisting people “shopping” for their groceries. Gladiolus Food Pantry is open once a week. Clients can come once a month to receive the free food for their families.
This particular pantry services 200 families a week. The organization behind this is complicated and interconnected with a matrix of suppliers. The main artery being the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Gladiolus is a major distribution center to the Harlem Heights community.
Lauré and I had come to the pantry the day before to help stock the shelves in preparation. Many volunteers taught us the ropes and enlightened our knowledge of how the process of distributing the food would work. We were fairly warned that the actual day of distribution could be hectic due to the number of people that would be flowing through. They were right. It was still impressive how many folks were served in a short period of time with relatively limited chaos. The quantity of food given out was immense.
Sarah joined us for this day of distribution. Not taking in account the three of us and Miriam, the average age of the volunteer was 70. BJ herself proudly admitted to being 85. Nothing like being over 50, yet being one of the Spring Chickens in a group. And this group of volunteers was large. Maybe 40. Maybe more. I lost count.
During our interaction, BJ told me that she had been on three missions. Once again, without any prior knowledge about me or Lauré, a stranger willingly shares this kind of information. It astounds me. It just comes forth without effort.
Me: Tell me more
BJ: First, I went to Africa. Nigeria. Then I went to Bulgaria. And then, with my church, I went and served in Haiti.
With my encouragement, she went into more detail as to what she did on each mission and who was the sponsoring organization. The first two missions were through a center she called ‘New Missions’ based out of Ft Myers, Florida. The last trip was with the First Christian Community Church.
BJ: What brings you here?
Me: Our daughter’s graduation brought us to Florida. We’re doing outreach work wherever we go.
BJ: You’re a missionary? Where are you going?
Me: Wherever God calls us.
BJ: You need to go visit the New Mission Center downtown. By the bridge. It’s been a long time since I was there, but you should go and check it out. They used to have places for missionaries to stay between mission projects. Go and then tell me about it.
I look around at all of the volunteers, who in their later years in life, are giving so much of themselves. I reflect on the thankful individuals and families that I’ve just met.
I am surrounded by gracious people who share hope and loving hearts.
It’s no wonder that I’m happy.