“Well, let’s see,” she began and looked kindly at Justin.
“When we were in Decatur, Georgia and David was with Columbia Theological Seminary, we were with a group of families who were also connected to the seminary. One of the mission opportunities that several of the faculty and their families worked with was to take care of the homeless, especially their feet. Many homeless do not care for their feet for a bunch of reasons, and many of them have no socks or shoes, or the shoes they do have are too small or too big and without socks; their feet can consistently become infected and very dirty. So a group of families decided to put together a ministry once a week to attend to the feet of the homeless. They asked doctors to be with them in case of infected emergencies that needed medical attention, and mostly the seminary families would show up with aprons and towels and wash basins and disinfectant soap, and sit at the feet of the homeless, take their feet in their hands, wash them, and give them fresh pairs of socks. One of the seminary families had a wonderful thirteen-year-old daughter who approached me one week to go with them. I politely declined and made up a reason for not being able to attend. I prayed to God, ‘God send me anywhere on any mission, but not to the feet of the homeless, please.’ ”
“I heard no response and felt comfortable that God had answered my prayers. Stinky ugly feet turn my stomach, and I knew that I would lose it if I went. I am fully aware that there were others called into this kind of front line ministry, and I support them and admire their courage, but there was no way I could ever touch dirty, stinky, infected feet. About a week later, the same delightful girl asked me again, and I declined citing another important event needing my presence.”
“A couple of weeks went by, and this young girl asked again, and I said something about a program at the seminary, and she said, ‘Oh I spoke to David and that event has been cancelled, so you’re free!’ ”
“I was stuck. I had to go. Tom, it was awful. It was so terrifying it felt like was I was going to throw up. The girl took me by the hand that evening and showed me how it all worked, and said that my only job was to draw the water for the basins, and pour the bad water out. I could do that as long as I didn’t have to wash any feet. This little thirteen-year-old girl was a dream to watch. She would place those sanitary gloves on her hands, kneel before these men, and take their foot into the water and wash them ever so gently, and then dry them with a towel. I couldn’t help but think of the woman at Jesus’ feet. As I brought another basin, the girl took my hand and asked me to sit with her for a moment. I did to be nice to her, and what happened next changed me. One of the men stepped forward, and began removing his shoes. I got up to leave, and he said to me, “ ‘It’s gonna be all right tonight.’ ”
“We, the girl and I, helped his large foot come from around the basin and into the water. It was the most infected and horrible foot I had ever seen. It was sickening. The girl moved closer to me, and called for the doctor, and the man said directly to me, ‘It’s gonna be all right tonight.’ ”
“I began washing his feet. He said, ‘Thank you,’ the real thank you that humbles you, you know?”
Justin shook his head yes and Liz continued, wiping a tear, “As we finished with him, and the doctor took over, the little girl said, ‘You did it Liz, you did so good.’ ”
Justin said as we were falling asleep, “The game was cool, dinner was amazing, they are so nice, and what about Liz’s story of the homeless’ nasty, stinky feet and the girl who is my age? She was my age dad, made me cry. I think you need to put that one in the book. OMG that’s an amazing story.”
Taking Action: Becoming Fearless
We are all on a journey of becoming. It is a mission built into every cell and atom on earth: Create and Become. Imagine what happens when we begin to see our life as a journey of becoming. How many others do you know who fight against this reality and whose life has become a list of complaints? Take courage and invite yourself into the empowered life of being formed especially with regard to becoming fearless. Listen for The Other’s guiding presence calling to each of us with: “It’s gonna be all right,” “You did it,” “You’re free,” “You are the eighth day of creation,” “Take joy in your children.” Thirteen-year-olds see and feel and act on a lot of good in life. They live OUT LOUD in the midst of fear most of the time. What happens when we risk becoming fearless and love The Other’s way for the sake of others, just like Liz and her teenage guide?
(pg. 85, Broken Hearts Open Doors: The Art of Welcoming Others ; Inspire Excellence, 2012)