I make hot dogs for the kids who come to our church on Wednesday nights.
It was never something I dreamed of doing.
It wasn’t even something I believed we needed to be doing at our church.
But there was no one else to do it this one time, and so I did it.
And I liked it.
I liked it so much that I asked to do it every week.
For the most part, I still like it. I like being the hot dog lady at church.
But some weeks, I’m grouchy on the inside.
Kids are so self-absorbed and the kids we pick up in our church vans on Wednesday nights have even less good manners than the kids who sit in our pews at church on Sunday mornings.
They are unruly and they don’t have parents peering over their shoulders, nudging them to “say thank you!” when they receive their food or to clean up after them when they are finished eating.
No matter how many refills they’ve had, they complain when we run out of Kool-aid and they ask for seconds before the line for firsts isn’t even halfway finished yet.
They hover on the other side of the kitchen window and their germs hover with them, right across from the food.
They dribble basketballs on the floor and throw footballs across the fellowship hall no matter how many times we’ve told them not to and they run through the hallways and knock the little kids over.
And on warm days, they bring in a stench of playground sweat that will just nearly knock a lady over.
All in all, they have no idea how to act in church, or probably even at Wal-Mart.
So it doesn’t take too many minutes of being around them before my hackles get raised, even on my best days.
Tonight I was especially grouchy on the inside.
The hot dog eaters were majorly getting on my nerves and there were so many present that I had to postpone cleaning the kitchen until after church so I could help Mr. Gore with his class of THIRTY-ONE 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. That’s right…thirty-one. And man were they full of it tonight – the room seemed to be crawling as he taught his lesson, as they wiggled and stretched and shifted in their seats, biding their time until they could be released to play dodgeball.
But midway through the lesson I made a quick visit to the church nursery to deliver Baby Betsie’s diaper bag.
And that’s when I saw her.
The long hem of her dress caught my attention as it disappeared behind the bathroom door – something seemed off about the length and the style on this warm March day. And then she peeked back around the corner of the door to see…what? If she was in trouble? If someone was following her? I don’t really know. But for the first time since I’ve been around her for these many months, our eyes met, and I can’t even tell you what I read in hers. I couldn’t read her at all.
And then I noticed her clothes.
She was wearing a floor-length red velvet Christmas dress with white velvet bows underneath each wide shoulder strap. Peeking out from under the outlandish dress was a pair of black pants and dingy tennis shoes. And on top of her dress was a black and hot-pink hoodie. Her hair was short, just like it always is, with the look that someone just chopped it off in one fell swoop to get rid of it.
This look on her younger sister is cute – kind of like my preschool-aged kids when we let them dress themselves and their hair is sticking out in every direction and their faces are dirty because they play all day every day and they are wearing a cape and dress shoes and sweatpants.
But on her, a girl of 8 or 9 years…
I don’t know. It was just kind of gut-wrenching.
She disappeared behind the bathroom door once more and closed it this time, and I stood in the hallway with the heavy finger of conviction pressing on my cold and selfish heart.
She’s who I am making hot dogs for on Wednesday nights.
And it’s not because we might draw her into the fold with our good cooking and loving personalities. And it’s not because all of our hard work will be worth it if “just one person” will get saved as a result. And it’s not because it’s just the “Christian” thing to do and we don’t have anything else to do and we might as well do this.
It’s because that little girl with the Christmas dress in springtime might be hungry, and she might need something to eat.
The same person who doesn’t help her get dressed in appropriate clothes and chops off her beautiful little-girl hair might just have forgotten to feed her tonight…
And me? The grouchy hot dog lady? Well I’m left thinking that all of my romantic notions about adopting a child in need from somewhere across the world will never really become reality if I don’t start by loving this girl.
I’m thinking that I will never truly have a heart for the lost if it remains cold and grouchy in the presence of a roomful of dirty kids whose parents put them on a church van minutes after the school bus drops them off.
I’m thinking that I can’t kid myself into thinking I’m mission-minded if I skim over the lost and needy in front of my very face.
I’m thinking that it is one thing to say I love Jesus and want to follow Him and quite another to walk as He did.
I’m thinking that to whom much is given, much is expected. Much more than cheap hot dogs and an impatient and uncaring attitude.
I’m thinking that the gospel starts here. With the girl in the Christmas dress.
And I’m thinking that I don’t feel so grouchy anymore.