I took a tour of the Nashville Rescue Mission’s women’s center two years ago. Mary Crutcher led my husband and me and our two friends through the center and into a big room filled with bunk beds. “People never get out of this room without crying,” Mary said. I couldn’t imagine why. Who cries over bunk beds? “Moms stay here with their children,” she said. Open cubbies stood at the end of each bed and Mary pointed to them. “Some of the mothers have four children and all of their things have to fit inside this.” We peered inside and saw various sized shoes, a few books, some toys, pants, jackets, a shirt with Tinkerbell on the front and Spiderman underwear. Five people. One cubbie. One bunk bed after another. One story of abuse or violence after another. A trip fleeing into the night with the shirts on their backs here or a discharge from the hospital after an attack there. I stood there and cried just as others who had visited the room before me had.
We follow our desires so easily in this country (if we want a new TV we get one. Who cares if it takes five years to pay it off?) But when our hearts nudge us to be kind or giving or brave, we don’t follow at all because surely someone else will step up to the plate. We are a noisy people and that’s part of our problem because God comes to us in such quiet ways it’s easy to miss him. The homeless man seeking food at the Mission doesn’t cause much of a ruckus, that abuse victim who runs away in the night with her children has never registered on our radar and that addict who stumbles through the Mission’s chapel door isn’t on the news or in the pages of the weekly tabloid so how can we feel responsible for not knowing his plight?
We like to spin things here. We didn’t like the fact that The Little Mermaid didn’t get the prince but rather returned to the sea and dissolved so we spun it so she gets her man and lives happily ever after. We’ll do whatever it takes to deal with the harsh reality of our existence. But the words of Christ bang away at our hearts—“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me” and we realize that not doing anything is doing something and that’s a hard truth to swallow. We can’t spin that, no matter how hard we try. God is here. Among us. Disguised as a battered mother with a soul full of wounds, a scared child with only a mission ran by strangers to call as home, or a homeless addict standing on the side of the road with an outstretched hand. He doesn’t speak but we know what he is saying. “Will you help me? Will you offer me any bread to eat?”
We are here to clothe, to feed, to love, to serve. The people at the Nashville Rescue Mission know it is through their doors that truth enters. May we all be an open door. For the sake of the least of these.
Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and gifted conference speaker. She has published ten titles including The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing. Donna lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, Troy, and their children, Grace, Kate and David.