"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." - Matthew 5:7
There is an old adage that says, "Meet people where they are" - meaning, for example, that instead of telling needful people what you will offer, ask them what they need. What the staff of our local domestic violence shelter said they needed is toilet paper. Toilet paper? I want to offer help with domestic violence and I am asked to offer toilet paper?
People rarely want to talk about women and children fleeing the parent or partner they love because they are being beaten or otherwise abused. People rarely talk about toilet paper either. The challenge is to get the conversation going and the help flowing.
Some people were getting tired of me walking into the pulpit several Sundays in a row with a roll of toilet paper under my arm and going into a spiel about domestic violence—until a young woman of the church startled the congregation with a testimony that she once needed a domestic violence shelter. It didn't provide toilet paper. The women had to provide their own. It was expensive and often stolen, so she kept the precious toilet paper with her always.
If we can say, "bless you!" when someone sneezes and bless hot dogs at a barbeque and call it grace—then we can bless our offering of a most basic need in a desperate situation. And so I offered a blessing of the toilet paper to an enthusiastic response from the congregation.
The hundreds of rolls of donated toilet paper took their rightful place with the pulpit, font, lectern and offering baskets. The director of the domestic violence shelter, in church to receive the offering, said the money not spend on toilet paper would be spent on counseling for children living at the shelter. The journey from hell to help, from apathy to mercy can begin anywhere, with anything, and at any time. How about with you? How about now?
Thank you, God, for every gift offered and received, no matter how seemingly silly or inconsequential, or grand and monumental we perceive it to be.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of Forgiving Our Parents, Freedom Through Forgiving (a workbook), and Forgiving Our Grownup Children. He is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.