As disciples seeking to respond to God’s call, it is important to make one on one contact, shake hands with and verbally express love to those who go unrecognized or are taken for granted.
“I’ve been here 15 years and nothing like this has ever happened before.”
This was the reaction of the activity coordinator at Colonial Estates Retirement Home as she helped us pass out the 150+ Kaleo bags being given to the staff as a show of appreciation from Shawnee St. Paul’s.
The Kaleo Foundation is a not-for-profit organization St. Paul’s has partnered with to meet needs in Pottawattomie County through the distribution of gifts such as food, toys and other essential personal items. In the two visits to the Kaleo assembly line, thus far, St. Paul’s has put together and distributed almost 1,200 bags!
Person after person on staff seemed baffled that anyone would do something like this for them as they were given their gifts of snacks, chocolate, foam hand soap, organic energy drinks, vegetable seed packs and notes of affirmation. A floor nurse put her hand over her heart as she was handed a bag.
“I’m working a 12-hour shift today and wasn’t sure how I was going to eat and have enough energy to sustain me. These snacks and drinks are such a relief.”
The service and mission members from Shawnee St. Paul’s assured the staff of Colonial Estates that they would be praying for them and their families and would return to further a relationship with them and the residents they care for.
“Sometimes, this really does feel like a thankless job,” one staff member reported. “It can be tedious, messy, and exhausting. I’m so grateful to know there are actually people thinking of us.”
In assembling these gift bags, we have been fulfilled knowing that they would truly mean something special to those who receive them. In addition to that feeling of accomplishment we have also benefited from the relationships we’ve built with each other in the process. The same can be said for the work done in partnership with the Mission Shawnee Lunch Program.
For several years now many Shawnee St. Paul’s members have come together to make and or assemble sack lunches for children around Shawnee who need summer lunches. During the summer, when these children are not being fed school lunches, multitudes go hungry through the day and sometimes even the week. Several people come together at the Mission Shawnee headquarters at 10:30 each Wednesday morning in the summer to help alleviate this hunger amongst community children. Great conversations are shared among the volunteers as they see to it each bag is filled with a vegetable, fruit, sandwich and chips.
This week some of us decided to pair up with the church who hands out those lunches at one of the apartments in town so we could also treat the kids with a Kaleo bag. I’ve been told that there is always a sense of gratitude as they are given their brown paper bags, but this week as they looked at the large gifts we were handing them in addition to their lunches there was an exceptional dose of added enthusiasm.
Even the older boys who stopped playing basketball to see what more we were giving them said, “This is actually very cool!”
“I’m glad you think so,” I replied, “God bless you.”
“God bless you too, sir!”
As we walked back to our car, there were delighted children’s shouts of “thank you!” that filled the air like a chorus. Turning around to see where it had come from, we saw three little girls sitting on the balcony of their apartments going through their bags together and waving their arms wildly to us.
“Thank you so much!” they shouted again through huge grins.
Since May alone we have given love, smiles, words of encouragement and gift bags to: all of the students at Jefferson Elementary, all of the students at the early foundations of Citizen Pottawattomie Nation, children of families going through Neighboring 101 classes, and those who attend community dinners. We have also given out adult specific bags to the staff of Colonial Estates and to many homeless neighbors in search of relief. I’d love to list off every individual who has been a part of making this possible but honestly the list would be so long it would fill the page. As they say, you know who you are and we pray that you’ve been blessed by the joy of blessing others.
Sometimes we take for granted the little things, like getting to eat every day, or feeling loved and appreciated by someone. Seeing the joy in the faces of children and adults alike helps us understand that something which may seem like a small gesture to us is a really big deal to them. God is so good!