Had dinner at the Gospel Mission last night.
Our hometown Mission is doing something I love: bringing a measure of dignity to those they serve. Our Mission’s cafeteria functions like a restaurant. Pretty tables, nice lighting, a choice of two entrées, several desserts, and wait staff and host.
Bringing dignity to people we serve means we see the humanity in everyone and therefore, the Jesus. Brings value to the life around us.
BUT! There’s more to be done! Serving at the Mission is fun. Fulfilling. I get to go home feeling #blessed. But it’s not deep enough.
Last night we were served ourselves at the Mission. We didn’t serve anyone else. We only had dinner there. Like real patrons. Kids and I waited in line with everyone else. Put our name on the list, and sat when we were called. And here’s what was different.
When I serve at the Mission or ANYWHERE, really, whether it’s the park or the hospital or VBS, there’s a level of respect I’m given. I’m the server, you are the served. I am the one dishing out, you are the one accepting. I have the power, you are at my mercy.
No Bueno. Yuck. I’ve always always hated that. You just can’t get real that way.
The remedy: knock it off. Ditch the treats. When I was in line at the Mission, I was one of “them.” I hate that word. I was not the one with the power. I was on the ground floor with everyone else. I was just normal. As far as anyone knew, I couldn’t make rent and my boyfriend was long gone.
But the fake respect was gone. The fake acting, smiling, congeniality, loyalty, eggshells were gone. And those things don’t exist in high doses in real life service anyway but they are there. There’s always an element of fake best-behavior. And I’ve always hated it.
This way, we visited with each other as equals. Because spoiler: we are equals (sheesh). People talked to me about how my kids looked hungry. How they used to drive their kids around until they were asleep. How they used to take them to McDonalds.
When I was doing the Park ministry, bringing food and having a picnic with a small group of people, it eventually erupted into a programmed Feeding Frenzy Program. At that point, when we were feeding 250 people twice a week and I was wondering what on earth I was doing, a lady named Danielle told me “this is nice what you’re doing; I see what you’re doing. It’s nice, but if you really wanted to know us, don’t bring us anything, just have a coffee with us and ask us our story.”
To which my brain responded “Oh hell no.” because that!? Would be terrifying.
And it stung like a thousand bees because I knew she was true. And scary because when we do that, we have to get real. When we can’t hide behind a bag of treats, we have to see that the people we are talking to are normal. Made in Jesus image. Just fine. Maybe even GASP we could share OUR burdens. (now I’m just talking jibberish). No but really. I’ll know if I have a real relationship with someone because I spill my guts. The marriage stuff, the money stuff, the kid stuff, the past stuff, the fear stuff. I’ll spill that when I’m in a real friendship. Did I ever do that with anyone I’ve had a servant relationship with? HECK NO.
Then I have to ask… are those really relationships worth having? If they’re not even real? There’s two options. Stop serving. Or start serving like Jesus did. Hands open, heart open, in your face, wanting relationship. For real.