By Kay Etheredge
A siren throbs loud like a toothache right outside the door as I sit in my part-time, borrowed office at Brother Bryan Mission. It is Friday and my only day to work here and the hustle and bustle of the morning feels like a family…like home. There are smells coming from the kitchen and the outside guests are beginning to line up for a meal and I am processing the mail. It is the week before Thanksgiving and the pile of envelopes sit like an invitation on my desk. As I tear open each one I feel a connection with the person who took the time to donate. And I pray.
Tiny pieces of torn paper begin to fill up my lap like a postal snow and it is easy to see each donor like a snowflake. There are address labels from the plethora of other charities to which people give. I see evidence of generosity to Veterans’ organizations and breast cancer research. Cute pictures of dogs and cats indicate humane society donations, and one envelope bears a seasonal sticker that says, “Give Thanks”. One person’s check bears a logo that says, “Make a Difference”. One envelope has an address label of a man with my maiden name and I marvel that his signature so resembles the writing of one of my brothers. I notice the name on one check that I recognize…my son’s first Sunday school teacher… and I pause for a moment because I know her son struggles with addiction. I say a prayer for her and think about an Easter egg that she hand stitched for our son, now some twenty-five years ago that I still have in the cedar chest.
Some envelopes have Bible verses printed on them and I appreciate those people for openly sharing their faith. I am thankful that we live in a country where it is possible to put a Bible verse beside your name and address and not have to fear government repercussions. Some people add a stamp even though the envelope says you don’t have to, and I think of the kindness they are exhibiting to donate even an extra .49 along with their gift. Several people have written on their envelope, “In God We Trust” and I believe they really are seeking and trusting the Lord and giving sacrificially. I pray for each one…that they will know the blessings of our Provider God.
There are always the few people who send an empty envelope or write boldly “NO” on the donation request. Out of the huge stack of mail, maybe 5-6 asked to be removed from the mailing list. Two people point out that the mail came in their husband’s name and he is deceased, and we had the same request several years ago from a dear lady in our church whose husband died suddenly at Christmas time and it was simply too painful for her to see mail addressed to him. I pray for the dear lady who had the same request in today’s mail and regret that she has been caused any pain. One woman wrote that she just can’t give and apologizes and I think of how kind her heart must be and I ask for blessing over her life.
I enjoy the flourishes of beautiful penmanship and the scrawls of checks written hurriedly. I see signatures written with quivering hand…the same way my grandmother’s handwriting changed almost overnight…when my grandfather died her once pristine Palmer writing became shaky and cramped…and I imagine this person having gone through a similar loss or some health issue that makes writing difficult. And I whisper a prayer for this person as the white paper pieces cling to my shirt.
And then there is the totally anonymous envelope or two…no return address and cash placed in a carefully folded piece of blank paper inside. These people desire to be known only to One, and for them we are grateful especially. One person put in a dollar… I think of the widow’s quiet sacrificial mite and what a tremendous example it became in scripture next to the clanging self –righteous clamor of the Pharisee’s coins.
God uses people to provide for the needs of Brother Bryan Mission. He doesn’t have to but He does. He uses the great and the small, the large check and the folded one dollar bill. And not one is more important than the other. He weaves and works in the hearts of those who love Him so that ministries like this one can exist. And the men come through the door and down the hall and I wish everyone who took the time to mail in an envelope could know just how much it is appreciated and how precious each and every man within these walls is. They are halfway through one more day of being clean and sober and I’m told the good smell coming from the kitchen today is chicken soup.
And here on this ordinary November Friday, it feels like family and it feels like home.