I’m sitting here in my warm office in Ohio having survived two or three polar vortexes and several massive dumpings of snow. One thought seems to continually enter my head: What are the people who call the outside home doing this winter? And then a second question: What am I doing for them?
There are many instances in our lives when we feel absolutely helpless, specifically concerning such monolithic issues as poverty and homelessness. I think back to one of those bitterly cold nights and remember the homeless man who asked if I could help. The best I could do was direct him toward a homeless shelter two blocks away, which may have been full.
I felt so helpless. My heart ached for this man - my neighbor - and his need, but I really didn’t know what else to do. Yet, I think if we take the time to look there are very real solutions that can make a significant impact on the lives of these sisters and brothers in need.
Being the new Assistant Field Director for CWS in the Buckeye State has given me the opportunity to see what communities are doing to make a difference concerning these issues. We are currently in the time of year when we spend a great deal of energy promoting the CWS Blankets program. I don’t think we’ve had a winter - at least in my memory - when the need for blankets was so evident. One simply needs to walk outside and feel the bitter cold - or experience the early stages of frostbite simply from walking from their car to their front door - to consider what life must be like for people who spend countless hours outside.
And congregations and communities are doing more than “consider.” They are taking action by hosting a Blanket Sunday at their church, allowing their congregation to make a difference in the lives of others. They are donating countless resources to provide a blanket for someone they don’t even know.
Upon hearing about the great need we have this winter, one United Methodist Church in central Ohio donated $200 on the spot to the CWS Blankets program. They apologized that they couldn’t give us more, and mentioned they had to keep at least $11 dollars in their bank account! What an amazing testament to generosity! They’re also hosting a Blanket Sunday in the coming months to further support this ministry.
Not to get all “churchy” on everyone - though that’s what you get when you read a blog by a seminary grad - but for me, seeing these congregations coming together truly brings to life the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus states, “’[For] I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:35-36, 40b, NRSV, emphasis mine).”
I leave you with this final thought: Blankets matter because everyone matters. We are all part of the same human family and you can make a difference for those in need. I urge you to participate in a Blanket Sunday this winter or spring and make a real impact on the lives of those around you.
Andrew Gifford, Assistant Field Director, Ohio