Matthew 25:40

I began this Saturday morning (12-20-2008) by rising out of bed around 5:45 in the morning. I often don’t sleep that well, but on this night I purposely slept on the couch so that I wouldn’t sleep well and I would get up in time.

I was getting up at this awful time of day because I had to be at the Senior Citizen’s Center in Ames by 6:30 to participate in the Jaycee project known as Holiday Food Baskets.

Despite my body’s best effort to stop me from getting up, I did manage to fall out off the couch and stumble to the basement and take a shower. I hit the road and made it to Ames at nearly the right time.

The process of Holiday Food Baskets isn’t really worth mentioning, but there are aspects of the day that are worth noting.

But before getting to those aspects I should make a confession. Deflation and the rapid falling of gas prices has put more coin in this guy’s bank account. I have often noted that deflation is great, if you still have a job.

It is a poor joke and I do have more than a basic understanding of economics to know that deflation and hard economic times for other people could eventually lead to my not having a job. I do work in what is essentially a luxury industry. Nobody’s job is safe, especially people that work’s for a company thats services are hardly essential.

The Pastors at my church have made doing something about the homeless situation in Boone a priority for our church. As hard is it may seem to believe, Boone County has the 5th highest rate of homelessness in the state of Iowa. What makes the situation worse is that Boone does not have a homeless shelter.

There was one briefly, but the finances were mismanaged and it is no longer in existence. Now the best that Boone has to help its homeless is the Boone Biblical College, but they only take men.

I write these things because these are things that I think about lately and it can really happen to almost anybody.

The need in Story County for Holiday Food Baskets tripled from 2007 to 2008.

Andrea told us a story about a family that seemed financially secure. In 2007 they were teaching their children to buy presents for other children through the Angel Tree program. In 2008, their children were on the Angel Tree.

The first 2-3 hours of Holiday Food Baskets is basically grunt work. It is essential, but hardly rewarding. You do a lot of moving food from place A to place B to place C. After everything is organized, then people start coming in to pick up their Food Baskets.

This is the part of the project that is rewarding and I think it is slightly unfortunate that only a handful of us that participated got to take part in this one aspect of the project.

This aspect was carrying the basket of food from the Senior Center to the person’s car. It is important to put a bag or rolls or some apples in a cardboard box, but I don’t think you get a sense of what all of this really means or amounts to and why it is important unless you get a chance to interact with the people that are getting the food.

It can also break your heart.

While I was carrying a cardboard box of food across a street to an SUV for a young woman she told me that this box of food was really going to help her family. They had 8 people living in the same house.

It made me feel completely inadequate and helpless at the same time. I couldn’t help but look into the cardboard box. Just a few moments ago it seemed like a lot of food.

A handful of apples and oranges.
A bag of celery.
A bag of potatoes.
A bag of carrots.
A ham.
2 cans of something.
A bag of rolls.

All of a sudden I felt that I should have run in and gotten them a second box. I should have gotten them a third box. The ham was nothing to sniff at, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that the ham that we had on our Christmas table that fed 9 people was at least 4 times larger than the ham we gave out. I didn’t do this though. The bureaucracy of such things precluded that people had to sign in with MICA and people were designated so much food.

I just wished the young woman a “Merry Christmas” and walked back inside. It is my regret that I didn’t just go grab another box for this family. It was a regret that would be doubled and then doubled again.

We had made up 200 Holiday Food Baskets. At the end of the event around 50 remained. Here is where my regret doubled the first time.

We loaded up the excess food and took it to MICA. As it turns out, MICA doesn’t really have that much capacity for storing frozen hams. Their freezer was already full and they needed to make room. To do this they gave each of us a turkey.

My regret doubled again.

So now I have this turkey weighing on my conscience, but I throw it in the trunk of my car and drive off.

My first stop is Becky’s. I’m supposed to stop at her place to pick up some Christmas gifts. Some for me and some for Teresa. What I learn on this stop is that Becky thinks I’m going to end up in a ditch some time in the near future.

I know she has had this fear for quite some time. When Shannon and I went up to Cedar Falls she gave me an extensive quiz on what kind of safety equipment I had in the car in case we went in a ditch. It basically boiled down to a thermos of hot chocolate. This didn’t seem to satisfy her.

She packed a gift bag full of food. Every time I would pull a new tin of food out she would tell me to “keep that in my car in case you go in a ditch.”

I do not discount the possibility that I might someday go in a ditch, but the closest I’ve ever come to going into a ditch was in the middle of the summer and the reason why is because I was reading the newspaper while I was driving to work.*

If the weather is bad, I don’t read the newspaper.

After I left Becky’s I stopped at Shannon’s to watch her make Christmas candy. She also bound my calendars for me.

Somewhere in between the “pink stuff” and the experimental caramel (which involved the use of a candy thermometer – who invented the candy thermometer??) the lack of quality sleep on the couch began to catch up to me in a massive way.

I bid my adieu since I was going to Des Moines for supper with Jeff and Yin and I was hoping to get a nap of Wentworthian proportions in before I hit the road.

Then on Sunday morning in church, Phil announced that a new family in Boone was homeless.

And I still have this turkey on my conscience.

*Not counting the skunk story.