Older women lean against their walkers. Young mothers hold small hands. People fill the foyer. They are quiet. The doors will open in another half-hour.
I walk past the group with my family, say good-morning and enter our church sanctuary, humbled.
Why should we be the ones allowed to give?
Clothes for men, women and children fill tables and rolling coat racks. Coloring sheets, markers and stickers wait for children to create.
Christmas music plays over loud speakers.
Weeks of preparation. Days of building. Today they come.
Helpers gather in a circle of locked hands to pray: May those who come experience warmth. May they feel loved. May they find the very pieces they need. May they know God’s provision, the treasure they are to him.
When the doors open at 10 am, the room fills with people, voices.
“Is she a size 2T?”
“Does this work on me?”
“Where are the women’s sweaters?”
People move quickly from table to table. Bags in hand quickly fill.
Two boys hold grocery sacks at a table stacked with clothes. One looks through the dress shirts, while the other searches for medium-sized sweatshirts. Sici and I check tags with him. She finds an Adidas hoodie in his size.
He takes it, smiles. She smiles.
While parents search through tables and racks, children work busily at the activity station.
We re-stack toppling piles. Remove empty hangers from racks once filled with coats. New underwear and socks fly out the door, as do warm winter scarves.
A man about my age pushes a little boy in an umbrella stroller. His two older sons and daughter walk beside him. Boys and dad move directly to the coats. The girl holds a shirt under her chin. “How’s this look, Daddy?” she asks.
“Great,” he says.
Minutes later, he calls to his sons, “Yeah, I think your mom would really love if we picked out something for her, too.”
A man in a grey hooded sweatshirt tells us he works at a local shelter. The organization receives many donations and always looks for ways to get more clothes into the hands of people who need them.
“I love doing events like this,” he says.
“My son is here with his family.”
The man in the sweatshirt walks across the room to the man I’d seen with four children and sorts through clothes with him.
People grab their overflowing bags, stop to take some cookies, carrot sticks and homemade lemon cake and walk toward the doors.
Our pastor’s wife speaks Spanish to a group of women. They tell her they are so grateful, that they want to help give out clothing the next time. They write down their phone numbers and exchange warm good-byes.
This is the grace that builds.
For grace is not meant to sit in neat stacks. Piled in dressers or on tables, stuffed in bags of our own. It’s meant to be shared. Given freely.
One who is blessed by grace passes on to another in need of grace. The one in need is the one who gives. The one who gives is the one who receives.
How we all need grace.
And this grace is building. Always building.
Building blessing. Building dignity. Building connection. Building appreciation. Building love.
I learn so much from the people who visit our church today.
All because of grace.
This is Week 6 in a series of Tuesday grace conversations. To catch up to this point, you can see… Week 1 – Grace that begins it all, Week 2 – Grace that bends, grace that blesses, Week 3 – Grace that beckons, Week 4 – Grace that breaks, grace that births and Week 5 – Grace that breathes.