Yesterday, I stood for about half an hour in the heat and poured ice water for our guests to the Dilworth Soup Kitchen. They were waiting in the very hot, un-air-conditioned hallway on a day that felt like it was in the 100s in the shade. We started pouring folks water because I realized how overwhelmed I was in the heat, and noticed people traveling with jackets and long pants and hats and backpacks and knew that, overheated as I was, my discomfort was nothing compared to theirs. So we found some disposable cups and brought a few pitchers of ice water down so that people could get some relief as they waited their turn to get into our Fellowship Hall and eat.
Standing next to me was someone who never once complained about the heat and stands at that post every week. Charlotte Dreibelbis is our official greeter. Before Charlotte, Clint Franklin had this role and he did it so well that he is sorely missed. Before Clint, five or six years ago, it was Jane Parke–back in the day when our guests were fewer and there was room for her to stand in the Fellowship Hall itself and greet folks. People still ask about “Miss Jane” and her smiley face stickers. And now, week after week, Charlotte meets people at the base of the stairs in the connector between our Sanctuary and Christian Education Buildings. She extends the hand of welcome with grace and poise. She knows the faces, she knows a number of the stories, she notices when someone comes without one of their family members, and she is grateful when she gets to meet a new guest. She calls them “Honey,” and “Dear,” and “Sweetheart,”–especially the children. She repeats the words with enthusiasm for an hour, “Welcome to First Christian Church and the Dilworth Soup Kitchen!” Every week, I gather with our volunteers and offer a prayer before the meal. Many weeks, I help out where needed–often waiting tables and tending to a small group here or there. But yesterday, I realized how limited my exposure to the people affected by our ministry has been. I might get to know ten, twelve, sixteen people as I wait tables throughout the course of the meal–and they are often sitting in the same places one week after the next, so they are often the same people. But Charlotte, she greets them all! Sometimes she greets 200 people or more on a Monday, shaking hands with almost all of them. So, as I stood with Charlotte pouring ice water, many of our guests didn’t know me, but they certainly knew Charlotte. When they saw her waiting at the end of that hallway, our guests looked like they had come home from a long journey and were grateful to see a familiar kind face. She did that in the heat, she did that for the full hour of our Soup Kitchen service, she did that with joy.
And then, as people finished their meal, as they gathered their things and walked out the door and down the steps, Charlotte was there to tell them to have a good day. She is the first and last impression our church makes on them, the Dilworth Soup Kitchen makes on them, every Monday. Wouldn’t you want to come back, too?