Sunday, April 17, 2011

Invasion of the Pizza Roll Snatchers

At times over the last three days, it seemed that almost every horizontal surface in our house was occupied by a college student. Eighteen of them spent two nights with us, an idea that caused many eyebrows to arch as we told friends and family how many were coming.

It was widely assumed that our daughter lured seventeen friends to town for some kind of party. The purpose of the trip, however, was quite the opposite. They were here on a mission, spending the weekend offering services to homeless people downtown. Most of the missionaries in our group were from TCU, with one from Louisiana Tech and another from Dallas Baptist University mixing in effortlessly. A contingent of LSU students also came to town. They converged with the goal of addressing a few basic needs of the people they encountered. This kind of thing goes on quietly but consistently thanks to an organization called The Hub Urban Ministries. On this particular weekend, The Hub and its volunteers, among many other activities, put together a springtime cookout. The folks from our house also spent time in “the basement,” The hub’s downtown day shelter.

The students were encouraged to be proactive in their outreach, which led them to see some of the ugly underbelly of the city; but when their days’ duties were behind them, they were aglow with a sense of accomplishment. There were varied stories about how their lives were touched and how they hoped that, if only for a moment, they may have made someone else’s life just a little better.

It was remarkable how low-key they were at the house. We had stocked provisions for them. They ate abundantly and gratefully. There was a big breakfast buffet featuring troughs of coffee, vats of fruit salad, silos of cereal, mounds of bacon and me dutifully manning the pancake grill. It was one of the happiest mornings I’ve had in months.

They were serious about their business, but they had their share of fun. Our daughter was the hostess and organizer. She was pleased to show her college friends her hometown, even if the downtown area seems a little sleepy on a Saturday and generally back on its heels. They walked around and goofed around, posing for photos along the way. I’m not sure what was going on, but some of the images look like potential album covers.

They stayed up late, of course and engaged in more of the kind of consumption you would expect from college kids. Sacks of pizza rolls evaporated. Chips and salsa were annihilated and the recycling bin shows evidence of gallons of guzzled soft drinks. But guess what: when they pulled out of the driveway, the kitchen was cleaned up, the rest of the house was in order and there was a thank-you note signed by all of them attached to a bouquet of purple flowers. I told them to come back when they can stay longer. I hope they do.

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