My oldest son, John, is a First Class boy scout working toward his Star rank. One of the requirements he has to fulfill before earning that rank is that he must complete six hours of community service. Although we already participate in a few community service activities on a regular basis, I began looking for some other opportunities for him to get involved. One such opportunity presented itself at my mother-in-law’s church.
For over two years, this local church has been sponsoring a free “clothes closet” and food pantry for families in the community. They have a room full of household goods, including pillows, blankets, videos, books, dishes, and more. They have three rooms full of clothes, another room with toys of all sorts, and two more rooms that are always overflowing with groceries. All the rooms are open once a week, and anyone can stop by; we often go to see what’s new (the kids loved the toy room), and we usually bring a bag or two of clothes and other items with us.
Because we’re here so often, the director of the clothes closet put me on the list to help out. And because John needed the community service hours, I volunteered him too.
I worked at a couple of jobs — hanging up donated clothing and helping to pack groceries into bags. John loaded the groceries onto a cart and wheeled them out to the parking lot. There he would unload the groceries for the individual, then bring the cart back inside for the next load.
After we had finished for the day, I asked him what he thought of the job. I was expecting him to say that it was fine, and I was planning on prompting him regarding how helping someone else in that way made him feel good. But he gave me an answer I just didn’t expect.
“It was really hard,” he said. “Some of the people who got food were mean. One man kept calling me ‘boy, ‘ saying, ‘Put the groceries in here, boy.’ Then, when I did, he just grunted, got in his car, and drove away.”
I thought a lot about what John said. I had wanted him to see how much good he was doing by helping those less-fortunate than himself. And while that lesson didn’t really come across as I had anticipated, he did learn a lesson in gratefulness. He learned what it was like to help someone who is not grateful — someone who takes advantage of a situation and shows no appreciation. He learned how not to behave, and I think he understood it a lot better than if I had given him one of my lectures.
So, will he go again to help at the food pantry? Sure — because no matter how someone responds, we aren’t to grow weary of doing good. And maybe next time, someone will appreciate his efforts so he’ll get to experience that too.
Photo by Alvimann