Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.
On any given workday, at least one person comes into my office asking questions or enlisting me to help with a new project or team. So it came as no surprise last month when my coworker Tim Huffine dropped in holding a piece of paper.
“Hey, want to join a few of us in serving breakfast at the Nashville Rescue Mission one day next month?” he asked.
It sounded like a worthwhile item to add to my schedule, so I immediately said “yes,” expecting that homeless men ate breakfast at, what, 7:30 a.m. or so?
“We will meet at the parking garage at 4:30 a.m. so we can be at the mission by 4:45 to help with breakfast,” Tim said. A fleeting thought of, “Meet at 4:30 a.m.? No thanks,” ran through my mind. But it was just one day, and it seemed like a great way to get to know more of my coworkers, so I agreed and put it on my calendar.
Sixteen of us from my department met that morning, along with a coworker’s daughter and her friend who were helping with breakfast for school credit. We carpooled over to the mission and were dressed for work in paper aprons, plastic gloves, and hairnets the minute we hit the kitchen.
The clean kitchen was full of industrial-size appliances, bulk containers of food, a few mission staff workers, and our volunteer team. Once the eggs, oatmeal, fruit, and bread were ready to serve, a few of our team members went into the cafeteria to help with tables while the rest of us lined up behind a counter to put food on plates or fill drinks with tea and water.
My job was to hand eating utensils to every man who passed through the line. What seemed like an inconsequential job turned into an exercise of humility for me. As I handed each man a napkin and plastic fork, each person in return handed me a dose of reality that it could easily be me on the other side of that counter.
I saw men who may not have showered in days, but their faces glowed with gratitude and hope. I saw men of different ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds holding the same tray of food and walking through the same line together as they each faced their own struggles and circumstances.
More than 400 men came through the breakfast line that morning. And as the 16 of us left the mission to head to our jobs, none of us commented on how great we were for serving the men breakfast at 4 a.m. Instead, the conversation was about the men we had encountered—their circumstances, their courage, and their gratitude. We simply served hungry men breakfast. In return, they served us a generous helping of perspective and grace, and we were changed.