At the mid-week Lenten Service last week, hosted by Harbert Community Church, we enjoyed a selection of soups for dinner before the service began. I had to laugh as I sat down to eat with my friend and her children, and noticed that each of our children chose the soup their moms had made. We had a good laugh. When I asked my friend’s husband about the secret ingredient, with a spoonful of the beloved steamy potato soup behind his smile he said, “it’s the love.”
I’ve been reflecting this week on the “secret ingredient” as it pertains to my work. In part, because there are people I am in the midst of helping, who have no simple solutions to the problems they are facing. In one situation, the patron is working hard, but the situation still requires waiting on other service providers. It also requires thinking, imagining, planning and committing to a decision. These situations demand extreme patience. Even good help and good services can’t always be as immediate as we would hope. This is true for people moving forward after homes and businesses have flooded. Help can’t seem to come fast enough for these individuals, even while agencies, organizations and individuals work on their behalf.
I’ve been humbled by the response of patrons whose aid hasn’t arrived, and I’ve learned that sometimes in the struggle to solve the problem, the patron just needs a safe place to feel frustrated and wonder about possibilities. Neighbor by Neighbor’s primary purpose is to connect people to social services, but the way to respond to people’s lives is as important as the services we provide. A volunteer reminded me of this as we were working to solve problems a week or so ago: she started with prayer and provided me with the gentle reminder that “these things take time.” As we work with our neighbors, our hope is that we might add that same secret ingredient, that love might be our greatest asset, and our secret ingredient in caring for people in the community.