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On Saturday my kids and I participated in our spring Hearts and Hands Day. We went with several other church members to the Campus for Human Development, which is the agency in downtown Nashville that coordinates Room in the Inn. It is a multi-faceted ministry that helps our homeless neighbors find hospitality and help every day of the week.

When we first arrived, we took a tour of the facility. We heard about the Campus’s programs for daily feeding, for temporary and permanent housing, for drug and alcohol treatment, for job training, for health and for hospitality. I watched my children as we took the tour, glad that they had a chance to learn about how some of our brothers and sisters live and the struggles they must deal with on the street.

Once the tour was over we were put to work. Some of us had the job of painting “cubbies” that the guests use for their backpacks and belongings. After several months of use, they were scratched and chipped and scarred. Others in our group went outside to clean the courtyard. A few lucky kids got to scrape up chewing gum off of the concrete. And, believe me, there was a lot of it. At one point I looked out at those kids scraping gum up off the sidewalk. They were on the ground, wearing latex gloves, using nothing but plastic scrapers. They worked for several hours, and there was still gum on the ground when we left. I wondered if they felt like their work was worthwhile.

Scraping chewing gum might not seem like a big thing, and it’s certainly a dirty thankless job, but I think it made a huge difference. Imagine being a homeless person who has walked eight miles to get to the Campus in downtown Nashville in the only pair of boots you own. It’s a hot day, and as soon as you step into the courtyard your foot lands in a wad of gum. And then another. And another. How frustrating and demoralizing that could be. You could end up feeling like the discarded piece of trash that has now ruined the only shoes you have.

As I watched the Christ UMC volunteers scraping gum and washing the sidewalk and painting the cubbies, the image of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet came into my mind. Washing those feet was a dirty and thankless job. And those feet were going to get dirty again as soon as they left for the Garden of Gethsemane. But that tender act of love and hospitality made all the difference in the world. Literally.

Now, when one of our homeless neighbors makes his way to the Campus for Human Development, he will find a beautiful courtyard where he can sit, soak in the sun and rest his tired feet. And when someone drags the heavy backpack that she’s been toting around all day into the common area inside, she will find a newly painted cubbyhole where her belongings will be safe and cared for. These friends will never know who made the space more welcoming for them. They might not even notice. But that’s not the point. The point is that a group of people went out in the name of Jesus Christ to make the world a more beautiful, safe and hospitable place for those who need more beauty, safety and hospitality in their lives.

May we all look for ways to “go and do likewise.”