(looking for the Radical Read-Along? we’ll be back next Tuesday with posts on Chapter 6!)
I know you can’t really trust your “feelings.” But this past Saturday from 8 a.m. to noonish? All I could think was, “This is what I was born to do. I. Love. This. Every single bit of it.”
Let me back up.
Have I mentioned that Nina and I are Reading Buddies with a sweet little 3rd-grade girl named DaShawn (Da as in Day, not Da as in Duh)? The SOMA! (“Read” in KiSwahili) program is headed up by Pastor Rich, and a bunch of us take just one hour a week to read with a kiddo at an elementary school in an impoverished community.
Nina and I LOVE DaShawn. This year’s program just kicked off, so we’ve only met with her twice, but we’ve loved every minute. She’s sweet as can be and a little shy with a quiet, raspy voice and 37 braids in her hair. Our first week together, I was asking her questions about her family, trying to get to know her a little better. “Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
“Older or younger?”
“Some older, some younger.”
“What are their names?”
She looked at me for a second, then held out one of her hands in front of her and kind of counted on her fingers as she said their names. I couldn’t really understand what she was saying, since she’s pretty quiet, but from what I could tell she had at least five siblings.
When I found out that Heritage (the church that’s helping plant Sanctuary, our new church) was doing a Warm Clothing Drive at this elementary school this past Saturday, I was SO pumped. The girls asked me if I thought DaShawn would be there, but I said I didn’t know. (They’re a little jealous that Nina gets a Reading Buddy and they don’t.)
Lots and lots of things went wrong trying to get this Clothing Drive off the ground. For starters, there were supposed to be shifts of people from 3-5pm and 6-8pm on Friday hauling all the clothes from Heritage to the school to get everything set up and grouped according to size and gender for Saturday.
Except there was no school Friday, and someone forgot to let us in.
Plan B: get to the school at 8:00 a.m., 2 hours before the Drive was scheduled to start, so we could set up AQAP. Except that we all stood outside the school in a chilly huddle from 8-8:20 when we finally decided, “They’re not going to let us in.”
Plan C: do the Clothing Drive outside.
Man, you should have seen God pull this together. The A-Team’s got nothing on the fine folks of Columbus, Ohio. Livi, Ava, Nina and I took over the shoes and pulled hundreds of pairs out of boxes and garbage bags and lined them up, adults on the left, kids on the right.
There were at least 15 tables of clothes with tons of boxes underneath just waiting to replenish. Infant girls, infant boys, 2T-5T girls, 2T-5T boys, and all the way up to XXXL. Thankfully, some amazing folks at Heritage had already sorted clothes and boxed them up with labels, so we pretty much just unloaded them in the right spot.
There were some “rules” that we held to pretty loosely. One paper grocery sack per family member + 1 pair of shoes + 1 coat. We had a couple people on hand who are fluent in Spanish, so that was cool.
And as if we needed something else to go wrong, somehow there were no signs to place in front of the school. Signs that let people know we were there with free clothes. So Pastor Rich took a few boxes of clothes, a couple volunteers and headed up to the front (we were set up in the back by the parking lot) to get people’s attention as they drove by.
And he took the attention-getting to the extreme. Have you ever seen a grown man squeeze himself into a one-piece navy blue footy sleeper with rockets on it? In public?
Let’s just say we didn’t tell anyone he was the Pastor.
At one point, a woman and her young daughter walked up, looking a little hesitant. I felt completely and totally drawn to them. “Hi!” I said. “Thanks for coming. You can fill a bag for each member of your family, even if they’re not here.”
The mom smiled and said, “Well, I have 15 kids, but I’m not going to walk away with 15 bags of clothes.”
“Oh my!” That one caught me a little off guard. “You can though! We can help you! Hold on!”
I ran to grab Carinne, the gal in charge of the show. “This dear woman has 15 kids. Can we help her shop for them?”
At this, the school librarian who hung out with us for awhile said, “I can vouch for her. She really does have 15 kids.”
Carinne was all over it. “Give me a couple sizes to start looking for, and a few of us will split up and go shopping.”
Mom holds out the fingers of her left hand and starts naming off kiddos and their ages.
“Wait a second!” I interrupt her.
She looks up at me.
“Did you say DaShawn?”
“Is she eight?”
“She’s my reading buddy! DaShawn is my reading buddy! I LOVE DaShawn! I can’t believe you’re DaShawn’s mom! We want to shop for DaShawn!”
And so we did. The girls and I searched high and low for the sweetest, most beautiful size 8-10ish clothing we could find. Cute jeans and colorful, pretty tops. Darling pajamas and cool scarves and a pair of size 4 shoes (her mama knew her shoe size which I found incredible). We crammed as much clothing as we could into the bag without ripping it and then found a sharpie and wrote her a big note all over the front and back.
I could’ve cried.
I could cry right now.
God, please bless DaShawn and her sweet mama and all 14 of her brothers and sisters. And thank you SO much for giving my girls and me the gift of meeting DaShawn’s mama this weekend. Help us to be Jesus to that precious, precious family. And I don’t know why you keep taking my meager attempts to bless people and spinning them around and blessing me three times as much, but thank you. I love you. Amen.