Heart work in grocery bags

Around nine on the morning of Tuesday, October 27, the fog had started to lift. I guess a hidden sun was working behind the scenes slowly burning it off. 

Earlier this morning out at the Richmond airport the visibility had been recorded at 0.06 miles. Normally, the visibility is listed as 10 miles. But, then my internal voice reminded me— this isn’t a normal world anymore.

I was headed over to Sherbourne United Methodist Church in north Chesterfield County with a pickup truck load of groceries for their community food pantry. Our congregation has been supporting this food pantry for many years. 

But, as you might have guessed COVID-19 has increased the activity at food pantries across America. The need for food in our communities has seen a significant rise, and this need isn’t going away.

I had two able loadmasters from our staff, Ronnie Johnson and Kim Tingler, help with the loading of grocery bags and boxes into the bed of the truck. Our congregation has been remarkably consistent in dropping off food every Friday since late March.

By now, I think the old pickup truck could make the drive to Sherbourne blindfolded. But, I will not try that especially as traffic merges on to the Chippenham Parkway.

For some reason, my eyes were distracted by a banner hanging from the roofline of the large hospital complex that sits off the parkway. The banner was red with white lettering. I’m sure some marketing person would be excited to learn that my old eyes were drawn toward the sign. Luckily, my old eyes could still see and read the following words:  We heal the most hearts.

Ancient grumpy grouch that I am, I wondered how the hospital determined that they are the leader in healing hearts?

Maybe, I should give them a call and ask for a statistical review of their data compared to the other hospitals in the Richmond area that work on hearts. But, knowing my luck, I could have the Fred Sanford big one, and end up at this hospital. 

I can see the doctor peering down at me ready to work on my ticker when a marketing person bursts into the operating room and exclaims: “Stop! Don’t touch that patient! This is the old grumpy grouch who questioned our healing the most hearts banner.”

You know lots of beautiful heartfelt music came out of Detroit, Michigan via the Motown recording company. I’m sure you have a list of your favorite Motown artists and their songs. But, there is one song—“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” that has always resonated with me. 

The song was written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean. Recorded in 1966 by Jimmy Ruffin the ballad reached into the top ten charts in America and England.

In truth, sometimes I hear this song, and I tear up. My eyes water, the lyrics pierce my heart. 

And then I think, this song should be in church hymnals. Or at the very least performed in churches. After all, Psalm 34:18 states: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I am thankful for doctors who have the skills to medically save a human heart.

But as we all know, matters of the heart can’t always be solved with the competent hands of a surgeon. And sometimes, I wonder if hearts can ever, ever, ever be healed.

Maybe during the roar of news stories during the past couple of weeks you heard the name Samuel Paty. 

Mr. Paty was the teacher in France who was beheaded. 

Apparently, in a class about freedom of speech, Mr. Paty showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Because of this, Mr. Paty received threats, and one 18 year old young man made the threats a reality. Now, two families have broken hearts as French police shot and killed Mr. Paty’s murderer.

This horrific situation has also created more “division” in France.

What becomes of the brokenhearted in these senseless acts of rage?

Where does this rage come from?

What kind of heart could behead a teacher or any human being?

What has become of our world?

Why are we so divided?

What is wrong with our hearts?

Maybe in that same roar of the news you have recently heard the name of Mitch Couch.

Mr. Couch and his family are from Lemoore, California. Mr. Couch has gained some national media coverage because he with the assistance of his family have been making desks for students.

Thanks to our pestilence COVID-19, schools across America are teaching students via a virtual format. For his family, Mr. Couch realized his children needed desks for their school sessions. 

So, he made a desk for his daughter. Next, Mr. Couch put together a step by step video for constructing the desk. That video has inspired other wood workers across America to build desks. At this point, Mr. Couch and his family have built and donated over 60 desks, and they are still building.

I love that story. 

It is a good story—a good heart work story.

And yet, Mr. Couch’s good heart makes me wonder—why and how can our hearts be so different?

What pushes a heart to violence? 

What pushes a heart away from love?

That person in “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is real.

Every description in those lyrics is an experience of real life.

That person is searching for healing.

In our current circumstances, I don’t sense that our hearts are searching for healing.

Why is that?

Well, maybe,  we are not listening to that puny little voice in our hearts. 

That voice is crying out to us. 

It is trying to get our attention. 

That voice is saying:  “Hey, Bill you knucklehead, there are many brokenhearted people in your community who are hurting. Put your heart to work. Start the healing. Don’t wait. Time isn’t on your side. The big guys in the blue yonder can’t do it all. Get busy.”

So, I’ll ask—What is that puny voice in your heart saying to you?

Is it like mine?

 My heart is annoyingly plucking at me daily. I sense it will continue to pluck at me.

And in that plucking, my heart is saying to me—Contrary to the hospital banner, it’s not about who heals the most hearts.

It’s whether I can use my heart to help the heart of one person heal.

I’ll take one heart at a time.  How about you?

In every bag of groceries in that old pickup truck is a heart—a heart at work.

And in every recipient, there is a heart that depends every week on that heart in a grocery bag. 

That’s one grocery bag, one heart at a time. 

That’s what the guys in the blue yonder need from my heart.

They are the puny voices plucking in my heart.

Do you hear them?

Groceries headed to the Sherbourne UMC food pantry, photo by Bill Pike

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