Those words were spoken in a prayer by my son’s friend, Daniel, before we headed downtown to Atlanta last night. We were a ragtag group at best, several moms, a couple of dads and small group leaders, and a gangly group of seventh grade boys with a penchant for youtube and cracking themselves up. Our caravan wound it’s way through 5:30 traffic into the heart of the city on a unusually mild January evening.
The boys have committed to serving dinner at Safe House the first Friday of each month, through their senior year of high school. Most seventh graders don’t know what they are doing five minutes from now, so this is a big deal for them. Safe House started as an outreach to help runaways and child prostitutes on the streets of Atlanta in the early eighties. It also serves the growing homeless population in downtown with food, services and love. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we pulled up, but I was absolutely unprepared for what happened inside.
We delved into organized chaos and got over two hundred plates ready to feed people. A group of middle and high school kids led the crowd in songs and prayer, and two very brave thirteen year olds stepped up to share a bible passage and talk about what it meant. Another young man visiting from a group in Virginia, shared his journey through song and an open heart about how he had made it through homelessness and addiction to a place of good health and purpose with God’s love. His story connected with those very human emotions of feeling broken, lonely and forgotten, and gave us hope.
I had the chance to talk to a bright, sweet seven year old boy, Christian, who told me all about his love for playing football as he rested his head on my shoulder like an old friend. He reassured me he was listening to our conversation even though he was “jamming to the music”. Three hearing impaired people showed me grace and didn’t laugh at my weak attempt to sign with them. They patiently finger spelled for me and even taught Christian the sign for “I love you”. He told me he thought it meant Spiderman, and we had a good laugh about that.
I want to build compassion for others into my children and keep that pilot light lit for my heart as well. But I honestly don’t know who was served more last night, the people who came to Safe House for a meal or me. I watched people praise God and talk about how blessed they were, knowing they were walking out into the unknown. My own worries and complaints seem ridiculous in comparison. I laid in bed a long time last night before falling asleep, thinking of the faces and stories I had experienced at Safe House and wondering what else God will show me over the next five years of Fridays. And I, like Daniel, will pray for this house to become a home.