A rush of kids quickly filled a small room and began to zoom around the tiny chairs that, just minutes before their arrival, were all neatly tucked into matching, plastic tables. Parents had finished ushering their children through the door. Some were looking forward to their weekly playtime. While others required a gentle push from a parent who was eager to find solace in the seat that would allow them to simply be still for the next hour.
After years of serving in children’s ministry, I felt confident I had discovered the ‘secret succession to a successful service.’ When the last child’s name had been jotted-down on the clipboard by the door, I knew I’d capture their attention with a Bible story first. Next, break-up the class with a game. Lastly, end with a snack that, for all intensive purposes, simply offered to hold them hostage to their seats where arriving parents would think the entire class had been that calm and well-managed.
That day, with the Bible study already under our belts, I quickly skimmed the game instructions and announced to the class: “Alright kids! Please take off your shoes and pile them in the center of the rug.”
But the next step of the game quickly halted as a foul smell began to radiate the small room. The space felt like it was quickly shrinking as the strong odor began to bounce off the walls and fill the room even more.
Eager to quickly solve my new problem, I made my way around the room until I spotted the source. A little boy, with a posture that seemed to be pulling him to the ground, wore baggy jeans that almost hid the fact that he was the only kid in class without socks. Approaching him, it became obvious the smell was an unfortunate mix of old, worn-out shoes and two bare, dirty little feet.
My instincts kicked-in and instructions were ordered for everyone to quickly put their shoes back on. The problem was diverted. But, I still felt slight frustration with how I was going to fill the new, empty space where the ‘shoe-pile’ game was suppose to be.
Although weeks had passed, the quiet little boy continued to come into my mind. Despite my initial problem-solving that so quickly kicked in that day, now, my heart couldn’t help but think of that little boy’s situation. His over-sized clothes and dirty feet now, more than ever, felt more like a gentle reminder, perhaps, that he could have benefited from some extra love, care and attention in his life. And as quickly as that strong scent radiated our small classroom weeks before, my own heart was now suddenly filled with the heaviness of what I had MISSED.
Tears filled my eyes when I pondered what the Lord could and would have done. I allowed my heart to guide my thoughts and, as vividly as if it really happened, I saw something much different than frustrated diversion.
I envisioned myself, but this time, kind, patient and ready to be a blessing.
Without a fuss, I would have handed over game-duties to someone else.
I would have found a quiet place, ran some warm water and taken that little boy’s into my hands.
As the warm water and soap rubbed his toes, I would have notice it was tickling his feet and we would both laugh together.
But, most importantly, on my knees as I washed this little boy’s feet, I would have taken the time to pray for him.
The Lord offered me such a GIFT that day. But my hands were too busy and my heart too distracted.
What I saw as a burden, was intended as a blessing.
I’ve shed many tears over that missed opportunity to love well. So, 10 years later, when I heard my church was partnering with an organization to not only offer new shoes to children, but also wash their feet, I knew I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
A chance to slow-down.
A chance to see more than what’s on the outside.
A chance to kneel before another and offer love and prayer as I wash their feet.
I am so thankful to Samaritan’s Feet. The blessing that was carelessly thrown-away so many years ago was finally redeemed.