It Really Is Simple

Over three years ago, we drove down the street, saw a man and his two daughters standing in front of a business and stopped to give each of the girls a doll. We found out later that this father had his girls for the weekend and they had asked him for toys that morning. He told them he didn’t have the money to buy them toys. He could never have guessed that they would each be given dolls later that morning.

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We stopped at a bus stop on a cold winter day to serve hot chocolate and offer hats and gloves. One young girl was eager to receive the hot chocolate. Her dad was not so sure. Oblivious to that fact, she asked for some for him too. Forty-five minutes later in a completely different part of town, we see this daddy-daughter duo again at a different bus stop. We were convinced it was meant to be. Conveniently located next to a McDonald’s we offered to buy them lunch. He opened his coat to show us a brown bag containing food that he said he had been given by a local charity when we saw him at the other bus stop. We casually suggested they save that for dinner and we drove through McDonald’s to get them lunch and a gift card for another time. I will never forget the girl’s excitement over her happy meal and the smile on her dad’s face.

These are just two of the stories from the early days of our acts of kindness adventures.  We had no way of knowing it would become “Salina Shares.”

Have you ever wished that you could do something to help someone, but just didn’t know where to start? Have you ever heard of needs but didn’t think your small contribution could make much difference? Have you realized that you have extra of some things and are ready to find a way to share them? Have you recognized real needs around you and are wondering how you make your extra someone else’s provision?

It really is simple.

I named these efforts of ours “Salina Shares” because it could include anybody in Salina. Individuals, families, churches, businesses, schools, organizations… anybody.  In the two years since we have taken that name, we have had the privilege to see more and more people sharing their time, their extra things and their money to help meet the needs of others.

It really is simple.

A couple years ago I was notified of an urgent need for $400. Generally speaking, Salina Shares does not have or give cash. I didn’t have $400 and I didn’t know anybody I could ask for that amount of money. I still don’t. The need was legitimate and I couldn’t get it off my mind. However, as I thought about it, I was pretty sure I could find 20 people that would be willing to contribute $20. It was one of the first times that we were able to meet a big need with everyone simply contributing what they could. In the process, I had a friend of mine give me a silver butter knife. She said she was keeping it for a rainy day in case she ever needed to pawn it for some extra money. She explained that she didn’t have $20 but still wanted to contribute. She gave me permission to pawn the knife. I did not. I will always keep that butter knife. It is a beautiful symbol of the generosity that is at the heart of Salina Shares.

In January, 2014 we implemented the Laundry Love (TM) program, based on the national initiative (www.laundrylove.org). Now, we are in all 3 laundromats in Salina helping people with the costs of doing laundry. We offer it as an act of kindness to everybody who walks through the door during the times that we’re there. Those who need it are always grateful. Those who don’t, generally say, ‘Use it for someone that needs it more than I do.’  We have no big benefactors. We have  people who set aside quarters each month, or drop some change into one of our containers in businesses that have agreed to be collection sites. We had a leadership group donate $84, another workplace donate $100 by paying to wear jeans, a single mom who saves the quarters that she gets in tips as a server and donates them to us each month. We get quarters in jars, in ziplock bags, and in rolls. Last month a man at the laundromat was fascinated by what we were doing and asked me about it. When he left, he handed me $20 and said, “I love what you’re doing.” There are lots of people doing what they can when they can to make Laundry Love a success.

It really is simple.

Missy sat in my living room a year ago and said she loved what Salina Shares does but she didn’t have a dime to contribute. I told her that didn’t matter. In the year since, she has headed up The Valentine Project, The Scarf Project, acquired free industrial shelving for the Salina Shares building, and put me in contact with a woman who donated a household of furniture that we have passed on to those in need.

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I have known Debbie about  3 weeks. She saw scarves hanging from trees in downtown Salina and was intrigued. She looked at the tags and saw the Salina Shares logo. She looked us up online and emailed me. That night she went home, collected about 15 scarves, took them to one of our drop off points and they were put out around town the next day. A couple weeks later, she showed up at our afternoon Laundry Love with a baggie full of quarters and 3 hours of her time. Now she is baking and decorating  cookies for our Valentine Project.

I hear of needs daily through a variety of agencies. Many of the time, people have nothing. Sometimes they have moved here from out of town or out of state with just one suitcase of belongings. They have escaped domestic violence, are just getting housed after living on the streets or in their cars, have been living in hotel rooms or are at the point of starting over from scratch after the loss of a job, loss of their health, death of a marriage or death of a loved one. When I ask them for a wish list, three things commonly top the list: toilet paper, pots and pans and towels. It certainly puts things in perspective. Most of the time we are able to provide cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, towels, sheets and blankets. Sometimes we have furniture. It is all people’s extra that they are willing to give away instead of sell. In some instances, we are even given new items.

It really is simple.

We each share what we can, when we can.

The other day my friends delivered this to my home…

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It’s not often I get excited about cleaning supplies, but they had donated not only what we need to give to others, but went an extra step in organizing it for me, saving me precious time! The time and effort they went to made me happy for days, but as I look at these buckets of cleaning supplies, I think, it really is simple.

It is the beauty of Salina Shares that people can give what they can when they can and still be an integral part of helping others and meeting needs. Being a part of such a process is life-giving and the sense of community that results is amazing!

Wherever you happen to live geographically, I encourage you to find the joy of sharing what you have with another human being.

It really is simple.

Abundance is… Learning to Share Well With Others,

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Little Bursts of Delight

We see him drive up with a carload of clothes and then watch as he opens his trunk to reveal even more. He has braved the freezing rain and below freezing temperatures. We have never met him before but in the next two hours, he will trust us with part of his story, explain the circumstances surrounding the 16 loads he has carried in, and touch our hearts.

They walk in not knowing anything about Laundry Love. They had come to the laundromat the Thursday before this Saturday and found it closed. Oh, yes, it was Thanksgiving. When they returned on Saturday they were delighted to have the help paying for their laundry. She asked if she could hug us, explained that sometimes things just get hard, and expressed her appreciation for helping them during this hard time.

Their family is a regular. His wife has been very sick for two months now. He comes to Laundry Love, calls her hospital room in Wichita and hands me the phone. I talk to her, tell her how much we have missed her, that we are praying for her, encourage her and hand the phone back to him.

She doesn’t have a car or a job but she does have two little ones. She puts them in a grocery cart, along with their laundry, and walks to the laundromat for Laundry Love. Her daughter loves Sofia the Great. Her son loves Thomas the Train. The children lay on the folding table and she rubs their backs while the laundry whirls around them. Our little offering of 5 loads of clean laundry quite honestly seems like nothing amidst the mountain of need she is living in.

A young man walks in timidly to ask about Laundry Love. He speaks so softly I can hardly hear him.  He asks me how this thing works. I explain briefly, assure him he’s in the right place and welcome him in. He goes back out to the car and returns with his girlfriend and their laundry. Later he asks me if by any chance I have a trash bag or two that they could put their clean laundry in. It “just so happens” someone had just given me two brand new mesh laundry bags and a laundry basket just 2 days before. I offer him all three and he is clearly blown away. He looks at me like I’ve just handed him a hundred dollars. His eyes well up with tears and he thanks me.

Another unsuspecting couple walks in to do their laundry. We offer to pay for it. They are happily surprised and very grateful. Between the washing and the drying she walks over to me and hands me two coupons for a free dessert at a local restaurant. A friend had given them to her but it’s the only way she has to repay us, she tells us. I assure her there’s no need to repay us but she insists we take them.

My friend hurt her hand at work. They told her to leave early and get it checked out. On her way, she drives past the laundromat we’re in and decides to stop and say hi. She has a huge heart for our community and is part of our Tuesday night team for Speedy Wash. I’m surprised to see her but happy to have her there. Less than 10 minutes later, two young men walk in. I approach them to tell them that we’re there for Laundry Love and he tells me in Spanish that he does not speak English. I call my friend with the hurt hand over. She speaks fluent Spanish. She explains everything to them and we pay for their laundry. She returns to talk to them a bit more, noticing that they are not dressed for the day’s weather. As it turns out, they don’t have coats, hats or gloves. One of them walks to work at 11:00 p.m. and walks home at 7:00 a.m. That morning he would have walked home in ice and freezing rain. He does not have proper shoes. We are beside ourselves. While she goes to get her hand checked out, I  go to the Salina Shares building to see if we have their sizes of shoes and coats. While I am there I also pull hats, gloves and scarves. We deliver to their home that evening and the only coat I had,  that I thought may work for him, fits perfectly. He hugged me to thank me.

The owner of the laundromat texts me to see how things are going. I’m guessing he’s thinking we’re really slow because of the weather, but his laundromat was hopping! Every dryer was full.  A couple minutes later he texts me, saying he and his wife are interested in adopting a family for Christmas. I am amazed at this circle of giving that we are a part of.

A man walks in who I recognize from last month’s Laundry Love. Last month when I offered to pay for his laundry, he explained to me that his sister had just died two days before and that he was needing clean clothes for her funeral.  He needed to talk and all of us took turns listening. Saturday, after getting his washers going, I asked him how he was doing, how the funeral was, how their Thanksgiving was without her. He couldn’t believe I remembered. He must have thanked me 5 times in the course of our conversation for remembering and asking.

This is just one day of Laundry Love.  Some of these scenarios leave me nearly breathless as I see God revealing himself in slow, simple, random-seeming circumstances. They are just little glimpses here and there of his hand in our lives, but they are extremely powerful. For whatever reason when we’re at Laundry Love we pause, we look, and we notice. It is not unusual for people to get teary-eyed when we offer to pay for their laundry. It is also  not unusual for us as volunteers to get teary-eyed when we see these divine appointments and “coincidences.”

As we walk through this Christmas season, I am mindful that nobody ever expected a King to come as an infant  in a manger.  Who would expect such love, such power and such hope to come in a form like that?

When we started Laundry Love, we expected to pay for people’s laundry. We wanted to help meet the needs in our community. We could not have anticipated what has happened in our own hearts and lives, as well as in the lives of those we have met along the way. Who would expect such love and  hope to come through the doors with a bottle of detergent and a roll of quarters?

Personally, I love the opportunities that our time at Laundry Love affords us and the little bursts of delight it offers to all of us. As we take the time to visit together, laugh and cry together, we get to know each other.  It has been an awesome way to build community, and this is just the beginning!

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in this holiday season, I encourage you to pause and take note of those little bursts of delight. I assure you, if you look, you can even find it in the midst of mountains of dirty laundry!

Abundance is… finding hope in unlikely places.

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November Advent

November arrived quietly on the heels of the costumes and candy and commotion of Halloween.

To me, November is Thanksgiving. It is the season I savor the most. It is a time when I do not feel alone as I pen my gratitude lists. Posts abound on social media proclaiming what people are thankful for. Many accept the “Gratitude Challenge” to find things daily that they are thankful for. What a delightful thing that we would busy ourselves with the biblical mandate to give thanks in all things!

I  anticipate November like I anticipate Advent. The dictionary defines advent as: “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival; the coming of Christ into the world.” These 25 days we have before Thanksgiving can be used to cultivate deeply grateful hearts, just as the Advent season in December prepares our hearts to participate in the good tidings of great joy as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Welcome to November Advent. With every acknowledgement of the good things in our life, for every time we take note of a special moment, for every nod heavenward, knowing that God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift and with every written note of gratitude, we help usher in Christ’s rightful place in our worlds.

In the midst of worldwide chaos,  personal deaths and tragedies,  health challenges, wayward children, difficult relationships, frustrating finances,  life plans unrealized, or dying dreams, we still give thanks. It brings clarity, brings the right things into view and heralds the arrival of God’s peace, love and hope in our days, despite the circumstances.

They say “Attitude is Everything.”  I would also contend that, “Gratitude is Everything.” It will color our world in the best possible light and help us see God’s hand in our lives. I suspect it is no mistake that Thanksgiving precedes the Christmas Season. As we spend the month turning  our eyes to the present, we will celebrate all the more the gift of God’s presence in our world, our lives and our hearts.

May this month bring new clarity of God’s faithfulness in our lives, as we give thanks.

Giving Thanks With You,

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Blessed

There has been something bothering me for quite a while now. I have mulled it over in my mind and heart but have never felt like I had enough clarity to write about it. Even now, as I contemplate posting this, I can tell you this particular blog will not be neatly tied up with a bow, or the last of its kind. I’m also aware that the way I’m feeling and thinking just may offend someone and honestly, I just hate to stir things up.

I am thinking this may be a problem unique to American Christians in particular and Americans in general but I am not well traveled, particularly in second and third world countries. So here it is…

Why is it that when we get our own way, we say we are blessed? This has really bothered me. Are we not blessed when things don’t go our way?

Why is it when good things are happening in our day, or in our life in general, we say that God is good? Is He not good when we hit the glitches, suffer the pain, and our desires are not being fulfilled?

Could it really be that we’re here in this place, at this time, simply to make our own lives better? Is the goal to make ourselves more comfortable and our homes prettier? Is that the definition and purpose of being blessed?

First of all, let me say, I am guilty. There have been times when I “feel” blessed when I get my way and feel forgotten when I don’t. And so, maybe this whole dilemma is for me alone to get right in my heart.

My understanding is multifaceted but I can narrow it down to some basic principles: We are loved with an everlasting  love (i.e. constant, always). What that means to me is that even if I can’t see His hand, I can trust His heart. We are to give thanks IN ALL things (not for all things). The posture of gratitude for even the smallest of things, will help keep our hearts right.  We have been blessed SO THAT we can be a blessing. Whatever it is that I “feel” I’ve been blessed with (love, faith, hope, joy, material possessions, etc.) is meant to be shared with others.

I have met some brave and  incredible people in my lifetime. People who live with relatively little in material possessions (by American standards).  I have met many forced to begin life all over because of crisis and turmoil they have faced through death, divorce, rejection or abuse. Amazingly, for the most part, they are both joyful and grateful people. They will enthusiastically tell you they are blessed. I also know of many individuals battling disease daily in their bodies, who live in constant pain and yet proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness in their lives. They are a constant inspiration to me.

I am indeed blessed – no question!  But I don’t want to be the spoiled child that stomps her foot when things don’t go her way. I want to understand God’s love and provision and blessing in the midst of any circumstances, so that I can communicate it in my actions to others in the midst of their circumstances.

I know I’m not done with this conversation. I hope you’ll meet me back here again as I endeavor to communicate my heart.

Abundance is… blessing others with that which we have been blessed with!

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Cupboards Closed to Kinsley

The other day our 10 month old granddaughter made her way into our kitchen to investigate.  She is walking now, so the “vertical view” is exciting to her and her curiosity has been piqued. Watching her explore was a simple but powerful illustration for this simple heart of mine.

As independent and strong as she thinks she is, well… she is 10 months old! As a result, one of us is usually standing beside her or following behind her as she sets out on her adventures. In this particular instance, it was my husband who was right beside her as she tried to open every cupboard on her level in our kitchen.

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With sheer determination and all the strength she could muster, she stood there trying with all her might to open those cupboard doors.  What she didn’t know, was that her grandpa was holding the top of the door closed (with very little effort, I might add) so she couldn’t get into the things inside.

She knew that he was beside her, but she never thought to look up. She was simply determined to get inside that cupboard!

 

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It may not seem like a big enough analogy to call a revelation, but here’s what I saw in that moment.  I have often talked about “open” and “closed” doors. I have tried to respect closed doors and walk through open doors whenever possible.

Suddenly, I realized that closed doors may not be permanently closed! They just may be closed for our own good now. As we grow and mature, more adventures are released to us.

 

 

In this particular instance with our granddaughter, we know exactly what is tucked away in the shelves behind the doors she was trying to open. It is our game closet. It is full of our family’s games that have brought us hours of fun throughout the years. There is nothing “bad” in that cupboard; our granddaughter is just far from ready for them yet.

Her natural inclination would be to pull everything out. She would squeal with delight at her conquest. Boxes would tumble, assorted pieces would fall out and the metal tin of Apples to Apples could really hurt her. Paper game cards or tally sheets would go straight in her mouth and little plastic pieces would become a choking hazard.

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So we hold the cupboards shut. For now, they are all a hazard to her. Little by little things will be revealed to her as she grows “in wisdom and stature”  In the meantime, it’s time for some childproof latches!

Abundance is… trusting that our Father knows what’s best for us.

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The Strength of a Redwood

I recently had the privilege of accompanying a group of  32 senior citizens traveling along the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Victoria, British Columbia. This particular tour is full of absolutely beautiful vistas. Among one of the more impressive creations are the Redwood trees.

I learned a few things about the Redwoods on this trip and could not help but see the similarities they have with the “say-yes-to-life” seniors that I had the honor to spend 10 days with.

  • A Redwood forest is crowded with life. That is true of these people. They stay strong by saying “yes” to life. Their lives are filled with families and friends, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, church life and travels.
  • The Redwoods’ root system is entwined with others. Researchers don’t even understand how they can grow so tall when they have no tap root that digs deep to secure it. Likewise, these friends grew up in a time when neighbors depended on neighbors and family worked together to make ends meet, make their fun and make their memories. They are healthy because of their relationships.
  • The Redwoods help hold one another up. Their best defense against storms is the shelter they find among other Redwoods. Time after time on this tour, I saw them forming friendships, helping one another, encouraging one another and even commiserating with one another. Their strength is due in part to their associations.
  • Redwoods are amazingly resilient. They stand the test of time. What they can live through and have lived through is nothing short of amazing. The same is true of the people that travel on our tours.
  • Each tree wears the successes and scars of the years. I am always in awe as I learn pieces of the stories represented by those I travel with on these tours. The losses, illnesses, diseases and hardships don’t stop them. They continue to learn and grow. They are modest about their  successes and humbly blend into the rest of the forest.
  • The larger Redwoods fall, letting in the light for the younger ones. Most of our travelers have grandchildren and some have great – grandchildren. As our time winds down on this earth, it is encouraging to know that as we step aside, we make room and light the way for future generations.

Each of us walk through life exposed to both sunlight and rain. The elements help form us into who we are. While we are attending to daily life, God is fashioning something tall and strong in stature and spirit. May each of us be full of life, entwined with one another, provide one another shelter, and with resilience wear the successes and scars of the years. And may we always be willing to step aside, letting the light in for others.

Abundance is… growing stronger through all that comes our way.

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Here and Now

Sitting at the airport during a layover, I noticed clusters of people in distinct places. A closer look revealed that they were all sitting in areas surrounding electrical outlets where their phones or laptops were plugged in. They were oblivious to one another, but all had gathered in the same areas for the same purpose. In this electronic age, it’s easy to do. We can sit next to each other, across from each other, be in the same room, or at the same gathering and not be in the present moment aware of those that are sharing our spaces and our lives.

I recently attended the first National Laundry Love Gathering. Laundry Love is  about people, presence and provision. There is something simple and sometimes profound about meeting at the laundromat and hanging out together. That’s what we do at Laundry Love. We come face to face with each other, as we each live out our own unique story. Most of our stories include at least one chapter on hardship. The beauty of finding friends at the laundromat is we find that we have more in common than dirty laundry.

I realize this is part of what has helped me fall in love with Laundry Love in general and the people in particular.  The fourth Saturday of every month is set aside. Set aside to meet new people, to help with the costs of laundry and occasionally to be let into their lives in ways we could never have anticipated. We are aware of each person who walks in, talk with those who want to talk, respect the privacy of those who don’t, play with the kids, help carry laundry in, offer snacks and help in whatever other ways we can.

There is something striking about presence; about living in the moment and being fully aware of  those around us. It is why most of our gratitude lists contain some of the simplest things. When we are fully present, we are mindful… and thankful … for the laughter, the sunset, time with our friend, or any of the other things that bring joy to our lives.

I also understand this about God: He is “I Am.” He is ever present, always personal. He cares deeply for people and pays special attention to children, orphans, widows and the poor. When I am present with others, I can better represent the One who loves each of us best.

Today I challenge myself to be more aware and less consumed with messages, notifications, lists and emails. Laundry Love has helped teach me the value of time together with no agenda. It has taught me that being present is most important and that generosity of spirit is a key to empathy and connecting with others. I want to do a better job of living in the here and now.

Abundance is discovering true gifts by being present.

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