It would have been easy enough to feel self-important.
I attended three different community events this past weekend. Two of them were fundraisers put on by supporters of Manna: the Merck Federal Credit Union and Villari’s Self Defense Center. Between the two organizations, they raised over $20,000. Feeling pretty proud of the relationships I had developed, I moved on to the Lansdale Octoberfest. There I was warmly greeted by a number of prominent community members.
While standing there, Mayor Andy Szekely asked if I would help judge the pie-eating contest. After trading a few jokes about the importance of the position, I walked over to the table of contestants. There were about 20 kids sitting there with their hands behind their back, excited with the messy prospect of eating chocolate cream pie. One person at the table, however, was not a child, but a young man who I recognized as being a frequent guest at Manna. He sat there with dull eyes as his pie was set before him.
The mayor called out for the eating to begin, and after just a couple of minutes a young boy was declared the winner. Moms and dads rushed forward to congratulate their kids and help them get cleaned up, but the young man at the table lingered. I walked up to him and mentioned he had quite a bit of chocolate on his face, and that he might want to get a napkin. He noted with concern that his stuff, a backpack and jacket, were there on the ground and he didn’t want to leave them there unattended. I said I would watch his things and so he went off in search of a napkin. After wandering around a while, a woman noticed him, handed him a napkin and he came back wiping off his mouth. He wasn’t doing a very good job. There was still chocolate on his nose and chin. I took the napkin from him and began wiping him clean.
It struck me that what I was doing right then was the most important thing I had done the entire weekend, possibly the entire year. Here was a young man, and yet a child in need of simple care – wiping his face clean – so he could move on in the day, feel looked after, cared for, with a sense of self-dignity. Perhaps I’m reading too much into how he might have felt, but I know what was stirring inside of me: what makes us important is not who we are, but how we respond to the call of serving, especially to the little ones, no matter what they look like, no matter their age, no matter their standing…