October 18, 2017

“Full Circle . . .”

“. . . a development has or will occur, leading a result or outcome back to the original source or situation.”[1] A common phrase. In life, full circles do not often appear quickly. I witnessed this one.

* * *

I must be honest: sometimes there is “second guessing” in volunteering. After making a commitment, life gets in the way, tumbling over the best intentions. Questions make a genuine desire to help appear different: Will I really make a difference here?

Today, with other worries and projects, I am guilty of second guessing. Still, after all these years I’ve learned to lean harder into the truth that the Holy Spirit has guided this encounter, and today inspired a friend to ask for help.

Sunday morning finds me volunteering at the Food Bank. Our local community has grown as residents from nearby counties arrive, taking refuge from storms. They wait in shelters for news of their community, for a return home. Resources are needed. The overwhelming line of people at the entrance of the Food Bank breaks my heart: “Dear God, where do I begin?”

The Food Bank is divided in two sections: relief supplies and immediate community supplies. Volunteers stack crates of water, non-perishables, toiletries on trucks to transport into devastated towns. The reality of human need hits hard as I see boxes of baby food, diapers, and blankets.

Ben heard of a woman who was stranded on a roof, holding her one-year old son for six hours.

My friend, Tom, walks me to the immediate community supplies table. On this side of the building people receive food and supplies to take home now. For hours, I repeat the same routine: collect items, pack box, return box to delivery table for perishable items to be added.

As I place another box on the table, a small voice calls out: “Hello.” A little girl stands, holding her mother’s hand.

I stop, say hello, and notice she holds a rag doll with black yarn hair in two braids tied by purple and yellow yarn. She’s curious: “So, people not here need food too? Can I help by sending that?” She points to one of the packages of water that have been set aside for them. Her mother nods.

Tom quickly hands the little girl a black marker, and asks if she would like to write something on the package for the person who will receive it. She writes a note, then places her doll on the table, carefully unties the braids, collects the purple and yellow yarn and looks at us. Immediately we all help as her little fingers reach through edges, tying a purple and yellow bow on two bottles.

I peek at her note: “Jesus Love Us All.” A selfless child, giving something precious in actions and words to comfort others. I think I can volunteer a bit longer.

* * *

A week later, a humble volunteer breakfast gathering is offered to express appreciation. As we eat, a story by a volunteer named Ben catches my attention. As Ben delivered relief supplies to a medical shelter, he heard of a woman who was stranded on a roof, holding her one-year old son for six hours. Ben saw her sitting on a cot, holding her son, two empty water bottles, and a wet Bible. Ben brought her water, blankets, talked to her.

Suddenly, the woman began to weep, pointing at the writing on the package of bottled water: “Jesus Loves Us All.”

“She handed me the wet Bible, creased open to Romans 8:26. Does anyone know the verse?” asks Ben, his voice shaking. “Inside, two water bottles with ribbons! Special delivery!”

Silence takes over. Tom’s voice breaks: “‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.’ He intercedes according to the will of God.”

I glance at Ben, the tears in his eyes quickly disappear as my own tears blur my vision.

Full Circle.

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.

[1] OUP Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2015.