You know how you get so familiar with something, you stop really noticing it? And you know how sometimes you say yes to what you know will take Big Courage?
That’s what happened in Bedford, outside London. We were staying with fabulous Kate, who we met in Thailand at the elephant sanctuary, wondering where we might volunteer. Riley suggested we volunteer at a homeless shelter. He had a really great experience doing that in New Orleans last summer with his youth group.
So we located a shelter in town and discovered the kids were too young to volunteer there. We were referred to the Salvation Army, a few blocks down the street.
We were greeted at the Salvation Army by Kevin, the Operations Officer. We told him about our trip and our desire to volunteer. He gave it a little thought and said, “You know we have a lunch on Tuesdays where you could help set and serve the food to our elderly group.” We agreed and had a good laugh when we learned that the elderly were people over 60. John turned 65 in March.
Later, Kevin emailed me to ask if we could also speak to the group that day. The scheduled speaker had cancelled. We said yes before fear could get us to say no. In the days that followed, we had some OMG moments. One of us would look at the others and ask, “What in the world are we doing? We’ve never done anything like this before. What will we say?”
Tuesday arrived, and we were back with Kevin at 9 AM. He told us the history of the Salvation Army, which somehow had escaped me all these years of rubbing shoulders with the organization in the States. Founders William and Catherine Booth had a mission to serve the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their “physical and spiritual needs.” This inspired me, because it is what I truly believe about service. It is about taking action, not just preaching about it, but actually doing something about it.
After setting tables, meeting and getting to know the wonderful guests, helping to prepare food and wash dishes, we took the stage to make our first presentation as a family.
We had a blast. We each shared stories, pictures, and lessons learned. A moment I will never forget is Allison breaking through her paralyzing fear of public speaking. You may know that Alli is bravely overcoming speech challenges caused by a neurosarcoid at age 2. When it was her turn, she took the mic, did a deep inhale, and spent several minutes confidently speaking about the wonderful people she has met on our trip. The group rewarded her courage with an outpouring of love and support.
We ended with questions and answers and left the experience with a huge sense of gratitude and awe over being able to serve and be with such incredible people, many of whom had spent their lives volunteering with Salvation Army in foreign countries and at home.
I have a new appreciation and respect for the Salvation Army and for the services it provides. I now see it as more than a place to donate our things and put money in buckets at Christmas. I intend to find out what’s happening in our area and how we might help.
Thanks to Kevin and his incredible team in Bedford UK. We had an amazing time and will never forget our experience. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms and giving us the opportunity to share our story.
Also, in the US, check out the Kroc centers that will be springing up all over the states, go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-text-dynamic-arrays/E9D8660ADDBB36C7802573F500587F26?openDocument to learn more.
New respect and big courage. One more reason besides Kate to love Bedford.