I met Kathryn and Bill* during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter - the week Christians often call Holy Week.
Kathryn came by on Good Friday to get some food from our compassionate ministry program called The Bridge. This is not the first time I have met Kathryn, but she thinks it is. All of us at The Bridge have known her since we started the ministry in 2003, but she doesn't remember. It's not that she is cognitively unable to remember. Kathryn is fairly intelligent. It's just that she has trouble keeping track of all the churches and ministries she has visited over the years. Kathryn is one of those folks who visit the hodgepodge of programs, ministries, and volunteers to get what they believe they need. And she is fairly good at it. And she is very good at wearing down those who try to help her. She will let you know if she is unhappy with your offer of a box of food or clothing. "I really need gift cards. Don't you have some supermarket gift cards? This food is just not good enough. You people really don't care about my family." Kathryn is the type of person folks who work in these ministries know all too well - the folks that make it hard to believe that the story you are hearing is the truth. You always feel like you are being duped - kind of like how you feel when you talk to a car salesman.
When I received a call from my friend at another church, saying Kathryn had been in touch ("Mike, do you know anything about her?" "Oh, yes, we all know Kathryn.") and needed food for her family for Easter, I told him to have her come by. He said she wanted gift cards, and we don't have them, but I would give her a box of food. I knew she wouldn't come during our normal hours on Tuesday evening, as she doesn't like to stand in line, or sit in a room with others, waiting.
Kathryn came at 6:45pm on Good Friday, just a half hour before our area ministerium's Good Friday worship service, which we hosted this year. I was just showing the speaker for the evening where he could wait for the other ministers, when word came from the foyer that someone was here needing food. This is not unusual on a Sunday morning, and we usually have folks at that time to help, but our regular greeters and ushers were not here, so I went to the foyer and saw Kathryn and a young teenager. It was Cindy,* who I remember as just a toddler when we first met her mom. I took them downstairs to sit while I prepared a box of food. As I brought out the box Kathryn asked if we had any sheets, so I invited her into the room where we have such things. I tried not to rush them, but all the while I was aware that I was supposed to be upstairs, being a good host to the ministers and guests who were arriving for the worship service. Kathryn and Cindy spent about 10 minutes looking through and choosing several things. I gave them two bags to carry the sheets, pillow cases, blankets, a teddy bear and a vase. I then carried the food box to her car. A man whom I did not recognize was driving, and we smiled at each other. I placed the box in the car and, as I walked away I heard Kathryn say, "They gave us crap. I was promised an Easter dinner and they gave us crap."
I thought a lot about what she said. And I realized that I'm a lot like Kathryn.
An hour or so later I met Bill. It was after the Good Friday service ended and folks were leaving the sanctuary. I looked over and saw a young adult man praying, sitting with head bowed in a pew. Just then Ray, a tall, friendly man with dreadlocks who owns a barber shop and sends his daughters to our preschool, came up to tell me that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child - and we can expect this child in our school in 2016. He saw me look over toward the man who was praying and said, "That's Bill. He was in the shop. He just has a scooter and it was starting to get dark, so I offered him a ride. He said, 'I'm going to the Nazarene,' and I told him I was coming here too, for the service. Don't know much about him, but he's a good guy." Ray thinks everyone's a good guy.
I walked over and sat next to Bill. We talked for 20 minutes or so, easily moving between conversation and praying. He told me he had sensed a peace during the service, and it was just what he needed. He also said, "My life is pretty much a disaster. But I feel good here, right now." We prayed again, and I told him how he can reach me, and that I hoped to see him on Sunday - and maybe he'd like to come back on Tuesday night to get some food and maybe help out.
Bill came back on Sunday morning, and we got to talk again. He hung around for fellowship time afterwards, ate a cupcake and some fruit, and made conversation with several folks. He said he'd be back.
* of course, not their real names