We made our beef stew yesterday, loaded it up along with boxes of crackers, plates, spoons, cups, napkins, salt and pepper, and ..laundry detergent. I'm so glad I took it. We ran out of three huge liquid detergent bottles (those huge ones with the spout at the bottom!), so we did need more.
I am humbled. My kids are humbled, more thankful, and glad they went. I can't say we didn't sanitize when we got back in the car to go home, but we worked hard. We got a brief tutorial about our jobs, and quickly got to work. Each family got three blue wash load tickets, and three white drying tickets. They would give us a blue ticket, we would help them load the washer, add detergent, select the cycle, and add at least ten quarters for them. Some people washing would get really frustrated with us, go and get the detergent, and pour it from the top of the container until they saw millions of suds (they needed to SEE suds to believe they were being cleaned!) in the washer window. (Maybe they thought we were shorting them?) We finally moved the detergent to the back room to preserve the last box. We had one load of clothes that was streaked with detergent (not surprisingly!), and then we had to pay to rewash it.
Next, we moved them all slowly to dryers as they finished washing. They'd give us a white ticket, and we'd add at least six quarters to get them started. We had dry erase markers (what a great idea!) to write their names on the glass fronts so we'd know whose clothes were inside.
At the same time, we started feeding everyone. It was like a tiny community, and we eventually got to know everyone by name (the dry erase markers and name tags helped too!). We served four kinds of soup, ham sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, cookies, and we had tons of bagels donated by Einstein's Bagels that smelled just heavenly! My mom also handed out all the strawberry jam we'd made this week. We felt like Santa passing out so much food to lovely people.
They were all kind, incredibly thankful, and asked if we'd come back (not the workers, the families!), so we felt touched. That's the best way to describe it. Even the people I'd invited were so sweet and loving. The way they helped, touched, hugged, and loved on the people was precious to watch. My mom is working on finding one woman a washer and dryer since the lady is helping so many other families. We found her a dryer today on craigslist.com, but she still needs a washer. Oh, how many people just give away their washers. I've done it. One will come, I just know it. It's just a matter of time.
I can not tell you in words the work we did-the dirtiest laundry, making sure they got home clean by bagging them in trash bags to avoid touching the things they came in, folding other people's laundry, keeping an eye on stopped dryers to add more coins, refilling lemonade, waitressing/serving food, praying for the people who wore the clothes.
I can only say again that if you ever feel your burdens are too heavy, too much for you to bear, open your eyes to look at others'. You'll gladly take up your cross and walk another mile. God gives us what we can bear, and He gives them what they can bear. Be thankful for your blessings and the burdens He's chosen for you. They were hand-picked for YOU alone.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.