Saturday, February 25 Lent Calendar* Invite: Pray for those who are hungry. Donate food to a food pantry and/or sign up to make lunches/dinners for a local organization - like Harbor House in Thousand Oaks, CA.
When my oldest was just five years old, I brought him along on a youth and family house building trip to the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico. On our last day as the work teams were finishing at the houses, I was cleaning the kitchen at the mission site where we had been staying. I was working from the worldview of a suburban mom who was continually privileged with a full fridge and pantry. I wanted to leave the kitchen tidy and ready for the next group. We had a Ziploc bag of leftover grilled chicken breasts from the previous night’s dinner as well as a small portion of vegetables. It didn’t seem worth putting in the cooler. So I threw it all in a trash bag which Aidan carried out of the kitchen and to the trash bin along the street. As I continued to clean, I noticed that Aidan was at the doorway standing perfectly still with his eyes intently focused outside. “Aidan,” I called. “What are you looking at?” He didn’t respond. He just kept staring. I came up behind him and followed his gaze. The trash bag that Aidan had thrown in the bin had been opened by a young mom. She was breaking pieces of the chicken and dividing the vegetable amongst her three little children. They ate right there around the trash can. My little boy learned that not every little boy has a full fridge and pantry. Some children have to scavenge through trash cans.
It was a pivotal moment. I wanted my children to grow in understanding of the hardships and heartaches of the world. I wanted us as a family to be hands-on serving the hungry, the suffering, the unhoused. I wanted my children to know the story about serving others that Jesus told in Matthew 25 when he said, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Tim and I started a ministry called “Raising Micah.” We wanted to raise children who would live by the words the prophet Micah spoke about loving kindness, doing justice, and walking humbly with God. With other families of young children, we did things like serving dinner for the unhoused, painting the brick wall of a multiracial church in Los Angeles and then spending the night on the church floor so we could awake the next Sunday morning and worship together, and assembling kits for disaster relief.
Then life got busier. The kids got older and our weeknights were consumed with homework and school events and piano lessons and sports practices. Nearly every Saturday was consumed by soccer along with many Sundays. After a hiatus from full-time pastoral ministry, I began working as a campus pastor at Ascension Lutheran School. Raising Micah dissolved. Before I knew it, we had fallen trap to what is one of the greatest threats to those who are hungry and poor: those who are fed and with financial means get so caught up in their busy schedules that they forget to look up and take care of “the least of these.”
Today on this fourth day of Lent I confess my guilt in getting too busy that I have forgotten the hungry. Today, I will not be too busy. I will take the list of needed items requested by our church’s food pantry and head to the store. I will sign up to make lunches for Harbor House, a local service organization. I will pray for those who are hungry. And I will pray these small acts that I do today can plant fresh seeds in me to be more mindful, more compassionate, more consistently caring for, as Jesus said, “the least of these.”