I worked a couple days each week in the late afternoon/early evening hours at the shelter. It really was my favorite time to work because clients were back from running errands, working, doing their “tasks” for the day…so you got to see everyone. I also loved serving dinner. I think it was just that womanly instinct of nurturing and I got to do this more in the evenings than I did in the mornings or afternoons. One of the “tasks” that many of the clients did during the day, to be honest, was hunting for food and things in the dumpsters.
Our shelter was the one that you went to if you were not eligible to go to other shelters so we had a variety of people with heart breaking pasts; from people recently released from jail with felonies that made them ineligible to live with their families, young men who graduated out of the foster care system, convicted drug dealers, active addicts, and the severely mentally ill. Also, violent offenders could stay at our shelter. We had around 80 men (women could come during the day but it was a “men’s only” shelter at night).
On this particular night a very small and very big thing happened. A group of gentlemen had come back from a whole foods dumpster and brought back a lot of fruit that was bruised. They were so excited. Fresh fruit is a big deal in a shelter or even for families relying on food pantries. I was walking around, it was after dinner, just visiting with everyone and enjoying their company…seriously, once you got past the walls, these are the kindest, sweetest, most amazing men…I love them dearly. I stopped at their table and congratulated them on their “find”.
They were sharing it with others in the group and everyone was enjoying this fruit. “Bill” asked me if I would like a piece of star fruit…he cut it for me and offered a handful of it to me. I am not going to lie, I didn’t want to take it, at first, because I knew he also wanted me to eat my piece of fruit with the rest of them. It hadn’t been washed since it came out of that dumpster and it was pretty bruised. But then, I looked at that fruit in a different way…through the eyes of God. Now, I am not God…I am about as far away as you can get so I don’t mean that…seriously, when I get really mad I cuss sometimes. You know what I saying? I am a very imperfect girl that is working hard to walk this walk with Jesus.
This was a big offering from “Bill”…out of all that fruit, only 2 star fruit was in the bag and that meant everyone wanted it…plus it is pretty neat looking! I could feel all eyes on me…they wanted to see what I would do. I could also sense this fear of rejection in Bill and I thought about how brave and vulnerable he was being by offering this piece of fruit…the best he had to offer. Just taking it wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to eat it and enjoy it…they needed me to do that. God wanted me to do that. I so badly wanted this intimacy with them…so, I said a prayer and I ate it. I focused on how good it tasted instead of how bad it looked or how dirty it might be, or where it came from, or how it came to them. I quit paying attention to the outside and started focusing on the inside of that fruit. It was hard…it was really hard and I had to be very intentional because they were looking at me to see how I would receive this offering. I thanked “Bill” and I would love to tell you how much I enjoyed it…but it was a struggle to look past the outside in order to savor the inside…but those seconds when I could wipe all the judgement away, I truly enjoyed that piece of fruit.
“Bill” and the boys started giving me little offerings all the time after that and I have a little basket of all those sweet gifts that I put out on my desk around Christmas time…there is a Skittle container that is shaped liked a Christmas ornament ( I was given this without the Skittles), a purple Troll with fuzzy hair, a book of matches with all the matches missing (to be used to pick my teeth…they taught me how to do this when I had some chicken caught in a tooth), a pair of fuzzy socks (these are new and they used one of their gift tokens at Christmas to get them for me). There is a pen from a bank…just the sweetest and most precious gifts. They are precious, not because of their monetary value, but because they were given to me out of humility, love, and genuineness.
When we offer our best and most precious gift to God, it looks just like that star fruit looked to me…pretty gross…but God sees past the outside and focuses on the inside. Unlike me, he does it with ease…he sees what matters first. He sees what is truly being offered, not “the thing” but “the heart and spirit” of the offering.
When you eat fruit this week, I hope you will see a picture of “Bill” and think about the beauty of human souls. It can be a little hard to see, right now, but look past the outside and focus on the inside.