Naomi sighed deeply as she dug into the hamper, sniffing each article of clothing. ‘This smells alright,’ she thought as she put the dress off to the side.
“Mom, this stuff is gross!” a voice screamed from behind her.
“Jena, just finish then put the baking soda back in the frig, please.”
“I hate not having toothpaste,” Jena grumbled.
‘I hate not being able to get it,’ Naomi thought, continuing her search for clothing.
The warmth of the sun and the cool breeze brought a smile to Naomi’s face as Jena ran ahead to walk with a church friend. They had attended The Vineyard Church for years. Naomi reminisced on the numerous Sunday fellowships she had attended and organized. She had always thought the fellowship times she had organized were the best. She would always have a theme and everyone would bring a covered dish to go along with the theme. Church members had really gotten into those fellowships back then, even dressing up in costumes or bringing items to support the theme.
Many people praised her efforts. She enjoyed seeing how much they enjoyed themselves. Mrs. Baker would always give her the “skinny” on different church members as they waited to serve seconds to everyone. Some of the scenarios seemed so ridiculous while other situations seemed so unbelievably sad. Naomi always made sure not to seem to enjoy the “dish” too much. That experience helped to build her resolve to never share her personal business with others at the church. She remained as covered as the hot dishes she brought to fellowships year after year.
As she got closer to the fellowship, she felt ashamed coming empty handed. Things had gotten bad over the years, but they had never been this hard. She had nothing to share. In fact, this fellowship would be their meal for today and, prayerfully, the next few days. Even when she was going through her divorce and had to return to the work force after 11 years, she never cried or complained to anyone. She was strong and steady in the face of sympathy and shared experiences by church members. But this was different.
The bank was threatening to foreclose on the house and money had gotten so tight, she could not afford laundry soap, toothpaste, or dishwashing liquid. Washing clothing by hand with a bar of soap took forever and they would have to clean just enough to have soap left for showers. She was cutting corners everywhere she could to keep the water and electricity on. And now they were depending on this fellowship for their meal.
Naomi’s shame grew as she rounded the corner and saw all of the yellow table cloths blowing in the breeze. It was packed. Children scurried across the big lawn, waiting for the games to begin. The adults huddled around the food area, chatting and greeting people.
“Sister Naomi! There you are. We could use some help. Do you mind?”
“No, not at all,” said Naomi, slipping on an apron. Working would help take away some of the awkwardness of their situation. Naomi began organizing the delicious dishes by vegetables, meats, side dishes, and desserts. She tried to hide the rumble of her tummy. A lean, dark haired woman lean over with a napkin in her hand and whispered, “A piece of cornbread to hold you over until after the message.” She shot Naomi a knowing glance and continued working. Naomi thanked her and slipped the napkin into the pocket of her apron. She would split it with Jena when she was able to slip away.
Pastor Shepherd greeted everyone and then delivered a quick word on fellowship, citing the Last Supper. He noted the intimacy of the setting as well as the connection between Christ and his disciples. From food washing to breaking of bread to the revelation of Christ to his disciples about himself and individual disciples, Pastor Shepherd stressed how intimacy creates an atmosphere for revealing to happen. He said a prayer for the day and the food then released everyone to begin the activities.
Long lines formed as everyone waited to be served. Naomi smiled and felt her strength coming back with each person passing through the line. They would have plenty for everyone and plenty for her to take home for later. Naomi saw Jena eating and laughing happily. Naomi smiled then felt hot tears stinging her eyes.
“Sister Naomi, how are you?”
“Better, Pastor Shepherd, better.”
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