Guest Blogger Sarah McCoy shared this story as part of a recent presentation on Hands and Feet of Asheville. Sarah has served as a volunteer with this innovative ministry throughout the past year. As a volunteer, she worked at the Church of the Advocate; this story comes from her experience there.
Sometimes it’s easy to see ourselves and our close friends as bricks that God is using to build his house, but it becomes an even greater joy when people who aren’t a lot like us become the bricks around us. And when they are discouraged or start believing lies that they don’t matter, we have the opportunity to lean in and whisper, “You belong here. We need you.” About the first week I was serving at Church of the Advocate, I was doing my best Martha impression, staying busy behind the kitchen counter so maybe I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I was serving food to our 200 hundred people that come for a Sunday afternoon meal, the last free meal served on Sundays, when one of our regulars named Derek looked at me and said, “What’re you doing after this?”
I was somewhat taken aback, not really wanting to be called out. I tried to think of an excuse of something that had come up that afternoon for me to do, but nothing seemed to come to mind. So, I hesitantly said, “Nothing, I don’t think.”
He said, “let’s go get some ice cream!”
So, after the meal, I walked with Derek up to Marble Slab, and ordered some ice cream. I was ready to pay for him, knowing he was out of a job. But he reached in his pocket, pulled out his Winnie The Pooh wallet and paid for both of us. We sat at the table and I didn’t say a word for two hours, but instead just listened to his story and to his journey. After that, Derek rode back to his campsite and I went back home. It would’ve been easy to get tired of listening to Derek talk. It would’ve been easy to be hesitant about being in that situation. But sometimes, someone just needs to tell someone their story or let someone know that they have something to give, too. A lot of times when we are on a mission to serve, we forget that the ones we are serving have something to offer as well. And sometimes its important for us to remember that while we have a lot to give, sometimes we don’t spend enough time receiving. That’s what Hands and Feet is all about. Being with people. Serving alongside someone. Knowing the people you are with. Recognizing brothers and sisters on the street and calling them by name.
There’s a quote by Lilla Watson, that hangs in the Church of the Advocate where I work, and it so eloquently describes this perspective change that Hands and Feet emphasizes, from doing for to being with. It reads, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Sarah McCoy is a musician, singer, songwriter, and piano teacher (accepting new students) who resides in Weaverville, NC. She and three other mammals play in the band Friendly Beasts. Most days, you could probably talk her into getting some ice cream.