Did you know the Family Promise day center at one time was a thrift store operated by Plymouth Church, one of our host churches? As a child I remember holding my mother’s hand as she pulled me between the racks of clothing. The area that now houses the computers, was once filled with slightly used summer dresses. Through the entryway instead of couches, were the women slacks, and shorts. Where Dana’s desk is now, was a table stacked with maternity wear. The second floor had men’s clothing, jeans with knees patched, in Becky’s office were rows of tired pin-striped suits. The third floor was covered with toys, and if my memory serves me well, it was as hot then as it is now. I was too young to understand why my school years always began with us buying clothes at this store. I never saw any of my friends shopping here. I remember mom holding “old smelly” shirts against my chest. After she had made a half dozen “blah” selections, it was off to the dressing room. You wouldn’t recognize the dressing room today, it has a new shower, toilet, and lights that work. The door actually closes now, instead of that screen door hook that served as privacy.
When I returned to Lawrence years later as an adult, and walked through the front door, the memories flooded back. There were long beaded necklaces with peace signs. The cashier sat at a table next to the stairs, there were colored lava lamps, and mood rings. One of the ladies quietly tallied up the mother’s arms full of clothing, with pad, and pencil; “that’s 50 cents , how about a quarter for that?” It seems I remember one toy per child was usually free. Somehow they knew the mothers wouldn’t be able to budget for an unnecessary items, or maybe it was just the smiles of the children that prompted the gift. Thinking back I’m sure the church used the profits from those donated items, to buy groceries for those in need, or help someone make rent that couldn’t otherwise do so. Items that were no longer useful to the original owners, were given a new purpose, a renewed usefulness in a different home.
I think now how ironic, if not a bit humorous that our Lord would see fit to again use this building for new beginnings. That He would tear down the walls of denominations, and difference, bringing all His children together again to do His will. That He would give those He loves so much, an opportunity at a new life. When I walk through the doors in the evening now at the day center, I no longer see the racks of discarded clothing, I see laughing children, hopeful parents, dreams of new life. A safe loving environment.
I’ve been asked several times over the years, why I volunteer. I think of these children, who have at such a young age endured hardships that most of us will never experience. The parents that face what must seem at times insurmountable challenges. How could I not be a part of this?