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One Simple Act of Kindness

 

Manna Café MinistriesClarksville, TN – During the first week of January, Clarksvillians joined forces to offer refuge to those whose lives were at stake as the temperature plummeted. In a matter of hours, businesses, churches, and organizations pulled together, offering to help Manna Café set up an emergency warming shelter.

As Director Kenny York’s wife, I decided to spend as much time at the shelter as possible during its three days of operation. While there, I witnessed many small, hidden gestures and acts of kindness.

A few examples: a pair of women donated a pile of hand-stitched quilts and knitted scarves and hats, while a seven-year old girl contributed half her summer’s Kool-Aid stand earnings to the cause.

One of our regular volunteers baked a couple dozen loaves of banana bread for shelter guests to enjoy.

The Runner’s Hub donated shoes when they read on Facebook that we’d been unable to procure a pair of size 14s for a homeless gentleman who had worn out his boots.

Perhaps one fleeting incident best illustrates the spirit of compassion that reigned throughout the shelter project: on Monday evening, the atmosphere in the First Baptist gym was downright cozy as volunteers and guests chatted, helped themselves to snacks, and played games together.

I battled it out over Monopoly along with three volunteers and two lodgers until 10:30pm. About 11:00pm, as Kenny dimmed the lights and all grew quiet, I curled up on my cot, surrounded by Clarksville’s homeless.

Sleeping through the night is a luxury I don’t often enjoy, so, as usual, I woke about 2:00am. All was still except for a few snorers and one groggy guest making his way to the restroom. We had asked that two volunteers man the Shower Sign-up table all night, in four-hour shifts.

Next to this table was a bench on which we’d piled blankets and quilts so lodgers would be as comfortable as possible. The Shower Sign-up table was quite a distance from my cot, but I could see the silhouettes of the two appointed volunteers.

After a few minutes, one of them—a man whose age I couldn’t discern in the darkness—stood and walked over to the bench, pulled a couple of blankets from the pile, and meandered among the rows of cots. Carefully, he covered one guest, and then another, with the blankets, obviously concerned about their well-being as the temperature continued to drop outside.

As far as he knew, no one was watching. As far as he knew, no one had seen his tender act of compassion. But I saw. And more importantly, God saw. And perhaps most importantly, when those two individuals woke the next morning, they surely realized that they’d been attended to during the night . . . that someone had gone out of his or her way to protect them from the chill because they mattered.

This seemingly small act of kindness epitomized much of what we saw at the Warming Shelter. Again and again, the ancient advice of Plato was put into action: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”


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