“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” ~ Confucius
I think we can all agree that preparing to do anything is time well spent. That’s true of any task. But I have found that if the situation involves a work of mercy, sometimes you don’t get the prep time.
When I started at the local homeless shelter, I chose to work the dinner shift. I like to be busy. We’d start by heating the food, and setting up the tables for dinner. Then we would all serve the food, clean up after mealtime and set up the mattresses for sleeping.
We all fell into an easy camaraderie. Sometimes there’d be time to grab plates of food and sit down with the guests. I would have wonderful talks with some, and listen to confusing, rambling talk from others. But it was all so fulfilling.
After working that shift for a few years, I got a call the day before our scheduled night. They were having trouble finding a female to work the 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. time slot. It was policy to have male and female volunteers because we took in men and women at the site.
I was really surprised. I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone first, and I didn’t know what the duties were. That didn’t seem to bother the voice on the other end of the phone.
How do I while away four hours in the middle of the night? How do I stay awake?
I didn’t have much time to decide. In the end, I agreed to the new assignment.
The next day I was one nervous lady. I looked for crossword puzzles to work on, and grabbed the book I had started reading. I also had a cross-stitch project I hadn’t touched in two years. Well, why not. All I’ll have is time. I had enough in my bag to keep me busy for a Trans-Atlantic flight.
As I walked into the building, an eerie quiet met me. Hushed tones, guest counts and a procedure manual met me. Quiet replaced the usual pots and pans rattling and cheery greetings of the earlier shift. Peering into the darkened gym, I saw the outline of mattresses, arranged in rows. The soft sounds of sleep and dreams wafted in the air.
One of the volunteers stage-whispered to me, “Hey Ceil! Do you play pinochle?”
You know, the night went very well. We took in two people who were brought over by the police department. We gave them some dinner, and set them up for sleep. I was able to stay awake just fine, because pinochle is the way late-night volunteers stay alert.
So while I agree in principle with Confucius, I am reminded of another saying. “God doesn’t always call the equipped. He equips the called.”
The Lord gave me a willing spirit, good work to do, and good people partner with me. Add in his grace, and I had everything I needed to succeed.