Voice in the Crowd
Cleaning out closets every three or four months has become tradition for me. I take a day to sift through drawers, discovering lost sweaters, unearthing twelve-year-old jeans I vow to wear again, and taming an expansive T-shirt collection that somehow procreates on its own.
I scour my children’s dressers to find outgrown jackets, blue jeans and “uncool” sweaters never before worn. And I think to myself, “What a shame! These clothes have a purpose just as we, the people who wear them, do.”
Realizing our blessings
Some time ago I began making the long trip downtown to the homeless shelter, my car filled with boxes of clothes. Knowing that my contribution assists a lot of people whom otherwise might not have access to appropriate clothing, I feel it is important. I make it a point to bring my two young boys, Billy and Alec. I want them to know they too can make a difference in the lives of others. I want them to recognize how diverse life can be and help them appreciate the goodness in their own lives and home.
Last Thanksgiving weekend, my mother, my sons and I loaded up the car with two large bags of warm winter clothes. That day it seemed as if more homeless men than usual lined the sidewalk around the shelter. They watched as I unloaded the clothes and took them inside. When I returned to my car, I heard a soft voice gently request, “Next time bring food.” I searched the men’s anonymous faces. Their eyes all held the same empty gaze. Being a mother, I imagined them as little boys and was left to wonder how they had come to be here. After all, each one of them was somebody’s little boy; somebody’s son.
I wasn’t sure who spoke those words to me, but when I got into the car and drove away I told my mother what I had heard. She looked at me solemnly and said; “Natalie, when God speaks to us, it isn’t always thunder bolts and lightning. Sometimes it’s just a voice in the crowd.”
I froze. Goose bumps appeared on my skin. I wanted to turn that car around, find the nearest drive-thru, and buy lunch for all those men who were somebody’s son. But my single mother’s budget meant I had to think creatively and get more people involved.
Hearing and obeying God’s voice
It was early December when I got my colleagues at work involved. We packed almost one hundred sack lunches and took them to the shelter. As we handed them out individually to people on the street, I was amazed by the humbled looks on their faces. It was more reward than I ever expected to receive. They were people just like me, the only exception being that their circumstances were much tougher than mine.
I like to believe that it was God’s voice I heard that day we delivered clothes. I imagine it was His way of telling me that by serving His children, I would in turn be serving Him. In Matthew 25:34-40 we read,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
There is so much more we can do to help others less fortunate than ourselves, and not just on Thanksgiving. Here are a few suggestions:
Support charitable organizations
- Samaritan’s Purse: A nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Find out more about sending a Christmas gift box to a child in need.
- World Vision: An international Christian relief and development organization working to promote the well being of all people – especially children.
- International Justice Ministry: Helping people who suffer injustice, abuse and oppression, and cannot rely on local authorities for relief.
- GAiN: Demonstrating the love of God – through word and deed – to hurting and needy people around the world through relief and development projects.
Volunteer time within your community
- Donate blankets or warm clothing to a local homeless shelter.
- Spend an afternoon serving at a soup kitchen or youth centre.
- If you don’t already know someone, ask a local church for the name of a needy family, and provide them with Thanksgiving dinner and/or gifts for their children.
Live a compassionate lifestyle
- Good deeds: Realize that doing good deeds is an essential component – an outflow – of the Christian lifestyle. James 2:15-17 says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Ask God to show you opportunities daily for loving others with the compassion of Christ.
- Prayer life: Regularly pray for people in your community and around the world who are in need. Interceding for them will help you to remember them, love them as Christ would and help you to look at them through God’s eyes.
I can see my boys’ hearts filling with compassion for people, which tells me that by giving, one can’t help but receive in return. Life is so precarious. We never know when we may be the ones in need of such unconditional compassion. Sometimes God speaks to us in very subtle ways. And, if we listen closely enough with our hearts and hands, we can hear His voice in the crowd, or at the very least, we can hear the voice of His Son.