When I began helping at the East Side Crisis Center about 6 years ago, I was taught to interview by a woman from my church, Virginia Mann. We have to ask folks who come to receive help whether they are working, what their job prospects are, what their monthly income is. Part of it is to fulfill a federal guideline. Part of it is to get a sense of what people’s needs are and if there is any way we can help. Our interview ends with me asking people if they would like to pray with me.
Nothing prepared me for the answers I get. People tell me about living on $300 a month, some people on SS get $600-$700 for a couple. Of course some have no income at all at the moment. Some have just had their sister’s kids or their grandkids move in after the mom has gone to jail. Some have had huge medical bills that sapped their resources. Most are folks that have just lived their whole lives in poverty and don’t seem aware that their incomes are shocking to me.
But the really surprising part is that many tell me how blessed they are by God, how they couldn’t get by without God’s help, and I have only met a handful of people who did not want to pray with me. I have been humbled by people who can get by on less per month than I spend on groceries, and who still can count their blessings.
I’m not trying to paint a picture where everyone who comes in is wonderful and spiritual because it isn’t like that. But each time I go I relearn the lessons that there is a big difference between what I think I need and what I really need, and that our sense of gratitude to God has more to do with our hearts than our wallets. It is also a way to remember that there are lots of people, real people, who are struggling on a daily basis just to get a meal on the table. It’s easy and convenient to forget them, and the Crisis Center helps me not to forget.