Okay, so I thought I would try a "catchy" title to see if it grabbed your attention. . . did it work? As a kid, or if you have kids now, could you imagine having a peanut butter sandwich without jelly? What if that grape jelly or strawberry jam didn't exist or was simply empty when you opened the fridge? What a let down, right? Well, more on that to come in a bit.
This weekend I had the privilege of going with the High School Youth Group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to the Holy Family Shelter downtown in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. This is the only shelter in the area of it's kind that is a temporary shelter for families. There are other shelters for women, men, women and children, men and children, or other combinations, but this is the only one that extends to the entire family. The shelter can house up to 22 "families" in it's dorm style rooms and even have one room that is setup to hold a family of 9 I believe. The shelter is "temporary" though and is always at capacity. It is more of a transition home for those that have fallen down and need help getting back up. Perhaps parents lost their job(s), a mother was escaping domestic violence with her kids, or a family simply couldn't make ends meet and they need help. Here, they get that help.
At Holy Family Shelter, residents stay for up to 30 days (with extensions on a case by case basis) while they get the help they need to find a job, find a more permanent living arrangement, and even get help finding other types of counseling for things like substance abuse or mental health issues. There are case workers to counsel, medical professionals visit, three meals a day are provided, computers are accessible for searching for jobs and writing resumes, life-skills classes held, and even clothes are given as needed to the families. There is a lot more, but what a wonderful place to address the needs of our community.
Our group had the opportunity to take care of the children that day so that their parents could get a much needed break. One rule of the facility is that the parents must always be with their children just for their safety and security. Parents are not allowed to leave their children -- they must accompany them to the bathrooms, showers, play rooms, and everything. So, our youth group setup in the children's room for three hours and took in probably about 8-10 kids at any given time and played board games, dress-up, did crafts, and even had snacks with them, something they never get. Those kids were great. They seemed so happy to have all of this attention and you could see it in the smiles on their faces. They played hard and laughed like our kids. They jumped around. They ran. But, you know that they have been through so much. Some have went to bed hungry many times. Others might have been victims of violence or abuse. One little boy had jeans that were too short with holes in them. For these three hours though it didn't matter. When it was over, there was a piece of me that hated to see them leave and I prayed later that they never lose hope and always feel the love of God on them. For many of them, their hard journey isn't over, but they got a good start thanks to Holy Family Shelter.
Before I forget, let me get back to the title of this blog. While we were touring the shelter, we walked through the kitchen and then the "pantry" where they keep the food. One thing that was striking is they had A LOT of peanut butter. The volunteer coordinator (who was great) told us they get a good amount of peanut butter donated, but not hardly any jam/jelly (there was only one jar). She said that all residents, kids included, get the same dinner at every meal. If the kids don't like the food, then they can go over to the side and get bread and butter or have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But, most kids don't like peanut butter without the jelly.
Why bring this up? Because it struck me how fortunate many of us are in life that we don't have to worry about the little things day in and day out. We don't have to worry about how our kids are going to get to school, where to take a shower, how we are going to buy new clothes for our growing kids, where we are going to sleep, where to get our next meal, or, yes, if we can afford jelly to make our favorite sandwich. Every city, every town, and every community has many of its citizens that are hurting for which these are real worries. And, they need people like us. Don't wait another day to do something about it! Find your local food pantry or shelter and donate your old clothes, volunteer with your family, write a check, or, just buy them jelly. Every little bit helps.
Dear Lord, give us a love for the poor and the giving spirit to do more. Amen.
P.S. Today, on my lunch hour, I took over a box of clothes and six jars of jam/jelly so the kids can have peanut butter AND jelly anytime they want -- at least for the near future. I'm sure i'll be making more trips. :-)