“What should we do next, Mom?” Whitney asked. “Alison and I finished sorting the baby clothes into piles.”
“Good! Why don’t you gather the stacks of jeans and arrange them on the tables?” Ellen smiled at her teenaged daughter, then went back to hanging up the skirts and dresses that had been donated to her church’s annual clothing give-away.
Hours passed as dozens of volunteers prepared mountains of clothing for the needy people who would be welcomed through the doors the next day.
“Great work girls!” Ellen started the car and pulled out of the church parking lot. “I don’t know about you two, but I’m starved! How about burgers and milkshakes for supper? My treat.”
Alison was nervous in the morning, uncertain about how she would react to people. She confided in Whitney on the way to the church. “I’ve never done anything like this before. What if I say something stupid?”
“Don’t worry, just be yourself.” Whitney advised, “It’s probably hard for people to come to something like this, so they want to feel welcome. They’ll want to know that you don’t think they’re weird or anything.”
A warm sun was shining when the doors opened for the clothing give-away. Volunteers inside the church stationed themselves around the room to assist with finding sizes or to help carry bags of clothes to waiting cars.
Throughout the day Alison checked on the jeans tables. After arranging everything so carefully the night before, she felt some ownership of the task and wanted it to stay tidy.
An old man approached Alison, “Can you show me where the pants are? Size 32. I really do need some pants.” The man was thin and taller than Alison and had a grizzled appearance. He was wearing clean clothes, but they were worn through at the knees and the hems were tattered. His face was kind and calm, and when Alison gave him her attention, he smiled, revealing more than a few missing teeth.
“Sure!” she replied, “I just finished stacking them, we have lots left in your size, they’re right over here.”
“Oh my! God is so good isn’t He?” The man said softly.
“Yes. He is.” Alison paused for a moment, “Well, if you need help, just let me know. You can try things on in the men’s room if you like.”
Alison busied herself straightening clothes on nearby tables, but she kept glancing back at the old man. She was puzzled by his manner – he wasn’t at all what she’d expected. She’d seen all types of people today, some of them very grateful, some not at all. This man was really different. He was obviously poor, maybe even homeless… What was it about him? He wasn’t rushed or fretful like so many others she’d seen today. He wasn’t demanding or grabby. He seemed at peace. Alison didn’t understand it. How could a man with so little have such a positive outlook?
About twenty minutes later the old man approached Alison again. He had some pants draped over his arm, he was smiling. “I just wanted to thank you for all this, dear.” He said, putting his hand on Alison’s shoulder. “It’s a wonderful thing! I’ve been praying for something good to happen, and here it is. God is so good!”
Alison returned his smile but could find no words.
The man continued, now with some concern on his face, “I hope I’m not being greedy, but I found three pairs that fit me real nice, and they’ll be so warm when the cold weather comes. I wanted to leave some for somebody else. Did I take too many?”
Tears were brimming in Alison’s eyes. “No, not too many. There will be plenty.”
“Yes, there will be plenty.” The man nodded in agreement. “Plenty. God is so good. Yes He is.” His hand patted Alison’s shoulder, and he walked away humming to himself.
Ellen Taylor loaded the last of the boxes into her van at the end of the day. “Whew! Quite a lot of hard work! And you girls were a huge help. I hope you enjoyed yourselves. How did you do Alison? Sometimes it’s hard the first time.”
“Oh, I did fine, Mrs. Taylor. It wasn’t really like what I expected. I almost felt like the whole thing was for me as much as it was for the poor people… weird, huh?”
“Not at all.” said Whitney
“God is so good.” Ellen thought.