They rolled in like waves breaking on the shore. Small cars, SUVs and pickups threaded their way through road construction traffic cones and formed rows in the dirt outside our church parking lot last night. As they parked, families of all types and sizes emptied out and made their way onto our campus filled with our volunteers ready to serve them.
As people checked through the makeshift gates, they were welcomed by smiling workers handing out candy at "Trunk & Treat" stations. A few feet away was someone else hosting a game aimed at kids. The games awarded tickets which were redeemed for prizes.
A long row of "show cars" and motorcyles were available to keep the attention of afficionados while their kids were having fun.
Along the way there were clowns doing face painting, a variety of inflatables and a cake walk. We offered a food court with hot dogs, nachos, baked potatoes, soft drinks and over 20 varieties of homemade chili. We even had a special area for "Tiny Tots" where the preschool crowd had fun prepared just for them.
They rolled in like waves breaking on the shore. Moms, dads and grandparents brought their children to "Family Fall Festival."
I spent the evening walking around. My job was to greet people, answer questions and make sure our volunteers had everything they needed. Candy gets handed out fast in a setting like this and I discovered some of our "Trunk & Treat" stations were running low. I headed to our office to get reinforcements.
That's when I saw him. He was sitting in a chair near the door to the office and away from the foot traffic. Honestly, if I hadn't seen him right next to the building I was entering, I would never have noticed him. He was just a face in the crowd. A drop in a small ocean of people.
He wasn't in my way, but his offer to move gave me a brief moment to look into his face. Those eyes told me a story. This was a humble man, a poor man. His body language said that he works hard, and his load is heavy. This man who obviously wanted his family to have some joy on this night also had limited ability to buy them much. I think he felt uneasy being here, but he came because we offered family fun at no cost.
His face also said he was grateful. He didn't want to be a bother. He didn't want to get in the way. He didn't expect others to carry his burden, but life circumstances demanded that he accept what was offered.
He had been sitting there, almost invisible. But when I collected my thoughts from the evening, I remembered him. That's when I recalled the words of Jesus...
18 God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor... To set the burdened and battered free,
19 to announce, "This is God's year to act!"
Luke 4:18-19 (MSG)
Last night, in a very small way, we were able to take action. I hope the way we did it offered a small bit of kindness and a Message of good news to a face in the crowd.