As I went to bed last night, the phrase "visions of sugarplums danced in their heads" kept running through my mind. Only it wasn't treats I was thinking of; it was all the moments and all the ways I witnessed PIE club members being the hands and feet of Christ yesterday.
Their commitment and desire to help was evident from our first club meeting of the new school year as many asked "Do we get to do the food distribution again this year?" As we planned for this year, one consistent piece of feedback was many had wanted to volunteer last year, but the night of the distribution was during finals week and due to preparing for finals they either weren't able to attend or stay as long as they wanted. As we talked, they self-selected to hold the food distribution on the first day of the Christmas break.
Over the last three weeks permission slips poured in and yesterday 35 junior high and high school students arrived by 9 am to unpack boxes, sort food, assemble food packages, greet families and carry food to their cars. (I think it's important to note, although one of the goals of PIC is to engage teens in helping others, volunteering is not a requirement.) If you asked, they would tell you they were tired from finals, but all were excited and happy to be there. They jumped into hard manual labor and worked diligently for four hours, never complaining, always smiling and always willing to do any task from lifting boxes to sweeping the floors. As I talked with one student she told me she'd been excited for this for weeks. It was a sentiment repeated by many throughout the day.
Eight Prayer Partners attended and it was amazing to watch the teen and adult get an opportunity to talk and work alongside each other.
The teens completely led the effort. As the pallets of food were brought in, they quickly calculated how many items there were of each product and how many pieces of that product each family would receive. (Over and over I heard, I get use what I've learned in math. One adult did the calculation in his head and several students were in awe that he knew the answer faster than they could put it into the calculators on their phones.) Then they set to work assembling the food into packages for the families.
Just before the families arrived, I asked everyone to pause what they were doing and gather together for a prayer. Although PIE is a Christian based club, I don't know if all members are Christian. As I made the announcement they immediately paused and came together. I heard one girl affirm the announcement and saw a boy remove his hat. I thanked God for this amazing group of teens, their special hearts for helping others, for orchestrating everything together so we could help and the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. As I said Amen, I heard many Amens around the circle, then they quickly returned to work.
As the families began to arrive, two teens greeted them, directed them to the snacks
and Santa. I saw many families visit with Santa, enjoy cookies and fruit, color or work on an arts and crafts project before heading to the food. Once at the food, they had the opportunity to select the non-perishable items they wanted and then three teens would pick up the boxes of meat and produce to carry it to their car. It was a scene I witnessed over and over.
Not all of the families that RSVP'd attended and after the first hour it was evident we were going to have extra food. We started giving extra packages to those that arrived; asked if they had a neighbor that could use a packages, etc. One of the adults walked across the street to the Senior Center to see if anyone wanted food. These are all seniors on limited income that can pay a stipend to eat lunch at the Senior Center. Most said yes, so the teens loaded up the boxes and delivered to their cars. Then two contacted the director at the senior apartments (all living on limited incomes) to see if any of their residents would like food. Many said yes and we delivered to them. Then we went to a set of small, run down apartments across the street. We met a boy that graduated from high school last year and is trying to lose 60 pounds so he can get in the military. He was grateful for the healthy food and stocked up on fresh bananas, apples and oranges. When we knocked on another door, we met a woman that had been released from the hospital for surgery two days earlier. She was so appreciative to receive fresh produce.
From the smiling, joyful faces of the volunteers to the people they helped, each moment, each interaction was so special. Here are just a few that really touched my heart:
I learned later that one family confided to a teen there was abuse in their home. She offered to keep them in her prayers and asked me to do the same (I know you'll join me).
Three on the swim team had practice from 5 - 7 am, came to the food drive at 9 and were returning at 1:00 p.m. for three more hours of practice.
While thanking one teen for volunteering she told me "it makes me feel useful." She was grateful to have something productive to do rather than sleep or watch TV. Wow.
One of the boys has a soft spot for seniors and was glad for the opportunity to help them.
About half the teens are in National Honor Society and at 8:30 a.m. today went downtown to volunteer again by serving at the Feast of Sharing for several hours.
We finished at the apartment complex at 2:00 p.m.; the remaining teens were getting tired and had other obligations so we loaded my car with the last 7 cases of bananas and I set out to find more people in need. At first I didn't know where to go and then God reminded me of Pecan Grove.
Thursday afternoon while children played outside and celebrated the last day of school a felon, running on foot from the police, crossed the creek, entered the Pecan Grove neighborhood and started trying to break into trailer homes in order to hide from the police. Throughout the pursuit she had been yelling that she had a gun. As the police cornered her in front of a home, they thought she was puling out her gun. They shot and killed the suspect. A stray bullet entered the home, critically wounding a 6 year old boy who later died from the injury.
At the beginning of the day one of the Prayer Partners told me it was raining heavy on the northwest side of town, but as she drove towards Schertz it kept clearing. We didn't have any rain during the food distribution. As I drove towards Pecan Grove clouds were beginning to roll in and it looked like the rain was coming. I said a prayer to keep it away until the food had been delivered.Although the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped, a drop of rain never fell - the clouds even parted and the sun shined for a bit.
As I entered the neighborhood I saw four news crews sitting on the side of the road. I drove a little further and saw at least 10 police cars and dozens of officers. I drove up to the management office, parked may car, filled a box with bananas and headed to the nearest house. As I walked, and a police helicopter circled overhead, all I could think of was simply by the wrong person entering the neighborhood, how much their week, their Christmas and for the family that lost a child how much their lives had been changed. I hoped and prayed these simple bundles of bananas would give them some comfort; help them to know others were thinking of them.
As the first homeowner opened the door, she and her daughter excitedly accepted four bunches of bananas proclaiming how much they loved banana bread and couldn't wait to make some. As I knocked on each door, told the homeowner I was with the Clemens PIE Club and we were giving away bananas I was met over and over with gratitude, warm Merry Christmases were exchanged and hearts were touched - mine and theirs.
If someone drove by in a car, I'd hold hold up a bunch of bananas and wave them down. The driver would stop and also accept the gift. One woman gratefully explained, although she didn't know the family that lost their son, she was going to bring them the bananas to offer her condolences. All I could think of was Jesus in a manager and the shepherds coming to worship him with what they had. (Tears of a softened heart are rolling down my checks as I write this).
I didn't know where the family's house was, but had assumed since the woman running from the police had come through the creek on the edge of the neighborhood, the home would be near there. As I moved from street to street, I had tried to move up one then down the next, but some how made a loop instead. About halfway down the street in the center of the neighborhood, I met the best friend of the mom that lost her son. She gratefully accepted the bananas and asked for two more in order to express her condolences to the family. We talked for a few minutes before they walked back to their house a street over and I handed out the last of the bananas to the homes around the one where the child was lost. I know this is where God intended me to be.
Donations for the Kameron Prescott Memorial Fund are being accepted at the two Schertz Bank & Trust branches in Schertz or by mail to the Kameron Prescott Memorial Fund, Schertz Bank & Trust (P.O. Box 800), Schertz, Texas, 78154.