Parking my truck at the Hope Center, I feel kind of like the weather. I didn't sleep well last night and my "battery needs re-charging."
I wipe my boots on the back porch mat before fumbling with a balky doorknob. It finally relents to my twisting and I step inside the large meeting room.
This room, which doubles as a bluegrass music stage, is full of people. There must be 30 or more, most manning an assembly line that might make Henry Ford proud. But they're not assembling car parts -- it's bags of kidney beans, rice and other foodstuff they are putting into large cardboard boxes.
These people, mostly senior adults, are the Third Tuesday Food Box Crew at the Hope Center. The room is abuzz with laughter and talking. It reminds me of movie scenes from Santa's North Pole workshop the week before Christmas.
Maybe it's due to the cold dampness outside, but there is a warm glow and energy pulsating in the room. The room is filled with light, and it's not the type given off by fluorescent bulbs.
I realize it's the warm glow of giving: of folks who've learned that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. They're filling boxes of food for needy folks -- boxes that will make a difference in how happy a Christmas some shut-ins and families will have.
The brightest glow in the room comes from two people. Not just any two people, but a couple I love dearly.
Mancel Reeves, who isn't able to work today, tells me of terrible vertigo that keeps him from standing without "getting sick-dizzy." In spite of his physical problems, Mancel still has that glow that comes from the inside. It's a joy I notice in the faces of committed followers of Jesus. The glow is intensified by the joy of giving that fills this building on U.S. 190 between Reeves and Ragley, La.
His wife June scurries about the room instructing everyone and keeping the assembly line going. I catch up with her near the freezer where a stout man is rolling a dolly stacked with meat into the walk-in.
June Reeves has that same glow on her face. Giving, it's just what Christmas is about. Here's a couple at the age where folks are supposed to sit in a rocker and while away the hours. They're as busy serving others as they've ever been.
I walk up and down the assembly line visiting with the many friends. As country people do, they pick at me, "Well, look who shows up when the work's all done" and "I'd sure like to be a writer where I just come and go whenever I please." It's all in fun.
I'm really jealous of them as they work in the happy camaraderie of people getting "outside themselves." I just believe next month I might come down here and help.
Well, it's time to go. I leave my gift in the hands of June Reeves. She'd asked me to write a Christmas story to place in each food box. I finished it early this morning and hand it to her.* I look on the assembly line and see a stack of my books. One is going in each box. I remind myself that my hands are also part of this assembly line -- just in a different way.**
I ease out the door, back into the coldness. However, it seems as if the dampness doesn't soak into my bones as before. Driving to my next stop, I realize I've been warmed by that room at the Hope Center.
A room full of the warm glow of giving.
It's all about giving.
It's all about the Gift. His name is Jesus.
Curt Iles writes from his hometown of Dry Creek, La. The author of seven books, he can be reached at www.creekbank.net. His latest novel is titled "A Good Place." *The story I wrote for the food box, "First Christmas in Dry Creek" is at my website's blog. **The book I'm donating for each box is my only book that I overprinted and it undersold, "Hearts across the Water." Rather than staring forlornly at the stacks of boxes holding copies, I've decided to give them away to schools, libraries and other entities. They say the world could come to an end in 2012. If so, I hope I've given away all of my copies by then.
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