I had missed last month's Fayetteville Laundry Love Project, and so it was very refreshing to come back and see the smiles on many familiar friends and meet some new ones at the same time.
As the summer days have started growing longer, it seems that the number of people coming to be served continues to grow as well. In total, we served and fed approx. 70 people, washed over 120 loads of laundry and we did not have to turn anyone away. We were able to help everyone from those that carried their clothes in on their back to those with a pick-up truck full.
Two things stick out in my mind from the evening...
First, we are sad that this will be Justin and Tara Wilkinson's last time to serve with Laundry Love Project.
They are departing to move back home to Missouri, and so we are happy for them in that regard. Justin and Tara have played a huge role over the past 8 months with LLP and their presence and friendship will be greatly missed. Their heart to love people is remarkable and their consistency to lead and give of their time unconditionally is inspiring. Thank you Justin and Tara...you will be missed.
Second, after things calmed down a bit, I had the privilege of spending well over an hour talking with my friend Mark.
When Mark and I sat down, he immediately turned to me and said that he was going to tell me the biblical story of the Good Samaritan from the perspective of someone who was in the ditch. I was taken back a little because I've heard the story of the Good Samaritan many times, but never from this first person perspective. So, I leaned in and listened very closely to what he was about to say.
For the next hour, Mark told me about the times in his life when he needed help from those closest to him, and how time after time those that could help, simply didn't. He told me about the way he felt during those times, the questions he asked people, the anger he felt towards them and towards God for allowing him to go through his struggles. I could easily see the pain in his eyes and the questions he still had for the people that had turned him away; however, the one thing he told me over and over again was that even in his anger he never lost his faith. Then he told me why...
Mark paused, backed up a little, and started with the story of Exodus and then walked me through every major testing of faith for the nation of Israel that he could think of. He told me story after story and finally he came to the story he started with...the story of the Good Samaritan. He said he never lost his faith in that ditch because he knew that someone would come to help him, and someone did. It started with the person long ago who offered him a job and kept him in it when times got tough.
But, his true reason for telling me his story was for the encouragement to all the people that make LLP possible. He wanted me to share with everyone "don't stop and don't underestimated what you're doing." He said he could think of no reason why we should be caring of these people, but he said that what you're doing here may be the one small thing that helps them get by today without falling into the ditch.
Needless to say, I wasn't sure exactly what to say. I know the many people that make LLP possible, and I know that not one of them would think that what they are doing is anything worth even being thanked for. They do this because they love people and know that if this is just one small thing they can do to help, they don't hesistate. However, to Mark it was a lot more personal. And, to me it was a lot more powerful.
You see, Mark's story isn't that uncommon to those we meet at LLP; however, his perspective is worth sharing many times over. Through a series of events that could have happened to any of us, Mark found himself "in the ditch." However, now Mark considers himself one of the lucky ones. Funny how life works because after spending that time with Mark, I see clearly how his life has blessed mine.
Mark left that night with clothes that had not been dried, but he did that on purpose. He did that because the felt the money that would have been spent on drying his clothes would be better spent on someone else, and besides he told me "the sun will be out tomorrow and I can hang them outside."
And that seems like a fitting place to end..."the sun will be out tomorrow."
Thank you to everyone that makes LLP come together; you are truly amazing!
Special thanks to the Rogers' Mom's Club for providing dinner to feed everyone, and for all the volunteers and contributors who see the amazing stories and lives being shared. We love you all!