Every other Saturday morning, I see them lined up at the top of the hill when I drive by on my way to get coffee or hit the dollar store. People waiting to get food from what I can only assume is the local food pantry. They are in the parking lot of the Catholic Church, and sometimes I see them leaving with big, brown paper bags. I have never stopped.
I’ve seen him once asleep on a porch next to the post office, once walking through town a little unsteady. In a place this small, he’d certainly be called, by some, the “town drunk.” I want to call him by name, but I have never paused to ask him.
These are the “poor” in my community. I have ignored them.
Lovingston is small, but it is poor, mountain poor. We don’t have industry or much business here. If someone needs a job, 30 miles of pavement lie between them and it. Most of the people I see at the grocery store are shopping with WIC or SNAP checks – splitting their purchases into milk, peanut butter, bread. Fruit, cereal, cheese. All the seemingly arbitrary categories required to use the money. We are poor here.
The first principle of God’s Whisper Farm is “Love people first and hard.” This will be a place where the needs of people are put above all else, where all people are honored and respected equally regardless of religion or spiritual practice, political affiliation, race, gender, age, or economic status. When I read the Bible, I don’t see Jesus asking anyone to describe why they are worthy to receive care and grace, whether they are really needing of the gif , whether they agree with His political party or have his views on justice verses mercy; I just see God doling out all that goodness regardless to a bunch of screwed up, broken and chipped people like me. I want God’s Whisper to be like this.
But today, more than ever, I am reminded that to love well, I have to love hard. Hard for me is finding time to stand at that food pantry on a Saturday morning just to talk to the folks there if they don’t need my actual help. Hard for me is putting aside the socialized nervousness I feel about as a woman approaching an intoxicated man. Hard for me is to get beyond my own “to do list” and my own importance to put other people first.
I will, though. Because if God’s Whisper Farm cannot serve its own town, if the people of Lovingston do not know me and this farm as a place of grace and giving, where people are loved deep and long, then, I have failed. If God’s Whisper Farm whisper love to the poorest among us – poor in finances and poor in spirit – then, I have failed. I am building this place – WE are building this place in this town for a reason. We are needed here, and we need the people here – I have no doubt. The town is called Lovingston, after all.
So today, I am going to see if I can find that man. I’ll let you know how it goes.
What ways have you seen people and organizations reach out to the poor in their communities? I’d love some ideas about how God’s Whisper can serve in this way.
I’m in the process of writing The God’s Whisper Manifestothat explains the principles that will guide this place of retreat and rest. If you’d like to be among the first to receive a copy, please join my email list by adding your email to the subscription box in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. You’ll get my daily posts, a monthly newsletter, and the Manifesto when it becomes available later in the month.