No Fences

IMG_3749Every year, The Salvation Army embarks on a 30 minute trip to a farm out in the middle of Cheatham County with families from our various programs.  The mission?  To enjoy a Day on the Farm, an experience that vastly differs from the concrete and brick, traffic and combustion that frequents the neighborhoods in which they reside.

As the bus makes its way down winding roads, the noses of curious children are pressed hard against the windows taking in the foliage of changing leaves, while catching a glimpse of hawks flying overhead as they drift from tree top to tree top.  The bus parks and a hay ride transports the families to where the farm awaits.  A large lake filled with fish sits patiently, anxious for the fishing poles that will soon adorn it’s shores.  The grill, set amongst dulled red brick, contains gleaming coals that slowly cook the hamburgers and hot dogs.

The hayride stops and the families step out onto the soft green grass.  Children immediately run to the large tire swing or in the direction of the lake.  Peals of laughter and chatter can be heard throughout the farm and adults smile and observe from the luxury of the front porch swing and folding chairs.

The key word here is “relaxation” escaping the hustle and bustle of an every day existence, to simply stopIMG_3763 and just be.  To allow children to run and play, to laugh and to explore.  For parents, it’s a time to rest and find some momentary peace that may be hard to grasp in their daily routine.  The Salvation Army in partnership with Kiwanis of Nashville, looks forward to awarding this gift to our families each and every year.  And when it’s all over and the families head back to Nashville, the smiles that continually remain on their faces is all the thanks we need.  Our mission and ministry is to bless and to serve, to honor and to provide and since 1890 here in Nashville, this is exactly what we have been able to do!  Thank you to all of our partners, including the Vanderbilt CKI  for their many volunteers and The Spirit of Gold Vanderbilt Drum Line who perform an amazing number every year during this event and to our amazing donors who help to make this event and all of our other events and programs successful and life changing!

Operation: Love Thy Neighbor

homelessThis past Friday, we served dinner to members of our street family under the Jefferson Street bridge.  The evening held little humidity and offered a delightful breeze as volunteers set up tables piled high with clothes and shoes.  Our Salvation Army canteen was parked  in its usual spot, serving salad and pasta out of the sliding window and more staff and volunteers manned side tables with bottled water, juice, silverware and condiments.

Over 150 hungry men and women stood patiently in a single file line as each person shuffled to the window of the canteen, arms stretching upwards to receive their evening meal.

As I stood off to the side, a man, perhaps in his late 50′s walked over to me and thanked us for what we were doing.  He wore a weathered navy ball cap, grey -t-shirt and boots.  He clutched the to go box filled with food that he had just received and shared, “that he had never imagined ever having to ask for food.  He’d worked his whole life and was recently laid off and was struggling to find a replacement. ” He went on to say that, “he’d never lived on the street before and now has an understanding and empathy for those who call it home.”  He said, “it humbles a person.”  He went on to say again that , “he couldn’t believe that he was asking for food.”  I told him, “consider it a gift and that God will provide a way in the future for him to serve someone else once he gets back on his feet.”  He smiled and as he did, his eyes became red and swelled with tears.  These tears slowly escaped from the corners of his eyes and slid down his cheek, he whispered, “please don’t tell anyone here that you saw me cry.” I said I wouldn’t that is why I won’t mention his name, which I asked him for and let him know that he would be prayed for.

For those we see throughout Nashville and in neighboring suburbs standing on street corners, selling papers or asking for some type of ???????????????????????????????assistance.  For those sitting on park benches for hours and walking up and down various streets and intersections and sitting beneath overpasses and bridges, let’s pray for them.  And let’s try and meet the need, whatever that may be.  Find a way to serve and give back to those who are struggling, those who feel hopeless and unloved, those who feel rejected and alone.  Even if it’s just knowing their first name and calling them by it, this creates impact, this opens a door of hope, this can show them you care.  To hear their story, to see their eyes recall lives past, loves lost and to feel their hands in mine, roughened by the elements allows me to enter into their world.  It enables me to step outside of my life and into that of another and with it comes a greater desire to help.  With it comes a mission to help others feel accepted, loved, treasured, encouraged and safe.  It’s a mission that can’t be accomplished with just one person, it needs an “Army” and this is where you come in.  The Salvation Army has many ways for you to give back and make a difference, all it takes is serving that first meal, having that first conversation and you will be in it for life.  So what are you waiting for? Operation: Love Thy Neighbor has been initiated.