I met Grace when we were both attending Texas Christian University and we have been attached ever since. From traveling to foreign countries together with no clue (or cell phone) to walking each other through painful hardships, Grace and I have championed each other for years with a timeless friendship. Grace is a registered nurse stationed in the pediatric ICU at a children's hospital in Texas, and I believe that God truly created her with the purpose of caring for those in need. The stories she has shared with me from her experience in the "PICU" have made me even more amazed with her abilities and so thankful that there is someone like her caring for those precious babies. With her kind and gentle spirit that silently exudes the love of Jesus, there is no doubt in my mind that God smiles on the life Grace walks each day. With Almsgiving (the practice of giving back to the poor) being a focus during the observance of Lent, this post about Grace's homeless outreach in Dallas, Texas is a perfect reminder of how we can each have a passion that pushes Jesus' ministry forward in today's world.
For as long as I can remember, my dad made it a point that at least once a year we would do something to give back to the homeless in our city. Whether that involved walking the streets of downtown and handing out clothes or cutting tomatoes in a soup kitchen, it was a given that we would be doing something each year. Whenever we would volunteer, my dad would always say how he wished we made this a "lifestyle of giving" and not something we did for one day.
After I moved out on my own, I let the thrill of making my own money, living in a new apartment, and starting my new job distract me from the passion God had given me for the homeless community. I realized I had been living in Dallas, Texas for two years and hadn’t really done anything for the people I saw struggling every day other than maybe giving them a spare dollar when walking down the street. A few times throughout those two years I would get inspired and research homeless shelters in an attempt to decide which one to start volunteering at. After emailing a few places, I quickly figured out that most shelter employees are overworked and do not have a lot of time to respond to emails, let alone coordinate new volunteers. It took me an entire month to get on the schedule to volunteer for just a single day! I realized then that there is a lot of red tape when working with large organizations, and its not as easy to volunteer as an individual as you might think.
This year, for my 24th birthday, I decided that I was tired of my own excuses for not giving back and that I was ready to get back into working with the homeless. This time I wasn’t going to wait for someone to tell me how to give, I was going to be the opportunity myself! So, I made a simple post on social media explaining that for my birthday I wanted to do a clothing drive downtown and would be collecting donations. The response was unbelievable! I was contacted by people from high school and college that I hadn’t talked to in years, people who lived in other states and all the sudden everyone was mailing me their clothes. Almost instantly I was driving all over the city to pick up donations. The CEO of my friends company personally bought 20 packs of a dozen socks each and had them mailed to my house, and that was just one example of the amazing generosity I witnessed. My coworkers brought at least 2 bags of clothes a day to work! It was like everyone had been waiting for an opportunity like I had been and now that one had been presented to them, their generosity showed no limit.
The day of the clothing drive finally came and I was so stressed out! I was so nervous that it wouldn’t be a success. I thought my friends might bail, we wouldn’t be able to find people to give everything to, or maybe it would get dangerous. These fears proved to be completely ridiculous and not from God when we got to our location. My friends showed out! They took time off work, drove from far away, even flew in from out of town to be there. We arrived at the location and gathered to pray; I prayed that God would bless and multiply our efforts and give us the words to speak to show His love to these people. Within minutes our cars were surrounded and we couldn’t give things away fast enough. We never had to take a single step, God brought them to us! As much as I tried to plan for success, God had already made it a success. What was most amazing to me was how naturally my friends interacted with the people we met, and how naturally they gave their time and hearts to serving that day. There was never a moment of awkwardness or a time I was concerned for our safety.
As we were finishing up, a family with a 10 month old baby girl came up to our cars. The mother asked if I could hold her daughter while she looked for clothes. I held her baby, named Messiah, as she shivered in the breeze with nothing but a t-shirt and diaper on. Her mother told me they lived in their Ford Explorer and were expecting another baby in a couple months. We gave them all we had, but we hadn’t brought much in the way of children’s clothing. The father gave me his phone number and asked if next time we came if we would call them to let them know. I told him I wasn’t with an organization and we didn’t have a planned date to come back, but I would be happy to meet up with them and bring them what they specifically needed. They opened up their hearts to me and told me that Messiah’s car seat no longer fit her and that they worried about what would happen if they were in an accident. Messiah needed clothes and Pampers and they had absolutely no newborn clothes for the new baby.
The following week at work, everyone was asking how the clothing drive went. While sharing how much of a success the event was, I also told them about Messiah’s family and what they needed. God moved again in a mighty way through His people! In two days my coworkers had bought Messiah a new car seat and gathered a suitcase full of baby clothes for the family. Even better, my ICU unit has now basically adopted Messiah’s entire family. I am in frequent contact with them and whatever they need my coworkers and I come up with. We plan to support them through the birth of the new baby and as long as they need.
Through this, God has shown me so many more opportunities to give where I once saw none. What started out as a simple thought has turned into a lifestyle of giving, just as my dad always wished for me.