Story time at the shelter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2014

Today my wife, Sammie, and I were canning green beans. Sammie really hates messing with the green beans from my garden. Each summer she begs me to not plant another garden, and I do anyway.
I don’t plant it to anger her. I enjoy seeing it grow from the small seeds to the finished food. I, too, sometimes fuss about the hot weather and the lack of rain or when the wind blows my corn to the ground.
All of that is another matter. Today I am writing about being a volunteer at Rowan Helping Ministries’ shelter. How do I get from canning green beans to the RHM shelter? Hang on and walk the path with me.
A few weeks ago a team of volunteers from my church, John Calvin Presbyterian, served the Saturday evening meal at the shelter to about 80 clients who were being sheltered and fed because of losing their jobs, or home foreclosures, or just down right bad luck in a poor economy. Any one of us could very easily end up there needing a meal or a place to sleep.
New volunteer Susan Waller and Sammie barbecued 80 pounds of chicken that RHM furnished. Sammie opened and prepared 12 quarts of green beans that we canned last year and dozens of squash from the garden. Now you see where the canning green beans story comes back around and gets us on the path again.
Susan and I had more than 10 pounds of cucumbers from both of our gardens. We peeled and sliced and added vinegar and onions to the pile of food.
Amy McCachren brought 10 cantaloupes from Food Lion that we sliced for the hungry people standing outside.
The clients are always so grateful, and they don’t mind telling you how thankful they are for the meal. One man said he hadn’t had cucumbers fixed like that since his grandmother passed away. He went on and on about how good they were. You know, they were just cucumbers, but he was delighted.
Most loved fresh creamed squash. A few just didn’t want squash at all.
Cantaloupe was a crowd pleaser for nearly everyone. They loved the fresh veggies cooked home style. They ate everything we had but six slices of cantaloupe before they were finished.
Down in the laundry room, Bill Kesler and Tom Waller were helping with the nightly washing of the clients’ clothes. Each client places his or her clothes in a cloth bag that is pinned shut and tossed into the washer.
The laundry room work is mild, but the story telling by Bill Kesler is a might heavy and funny. Bill is a habitual story teller. He said he played American Legion baseball before the batting helmets were required. He was playing left field when a knuckle ball was hit at ground level into left field. He said, “You know a knuckle ball will stay low like that and be a sizzler right at your feet.”
Tom and I nodded our heads in agreement, just like we knew what he was talking about.
Well, Bill caught that ball at shoe top level and never stopped running as he threw that ball left-handed to home plate to gun down the runner. The runner was truly “gunned down.” That ball hit the runner in the back of the head knocking him “half out.” He stumbled to the ground missing the plate and falling into the wall.
The ball bounced off the runner’s head down toward first base. The catcher went after the ball while the runner tried to decide what had happened. Crawling back to the plate on all fours in slow motion, he was about to touch the plate when the catcher tagged him out.
Tom told about being in Coach Joe Ferebee’s first period class at Boyden High. Ferebee, being a duck hunter in addition to a great baseball coach, would go duck hunting at 5 a.m. before coming to school, according to Tom. The boys in first period class would then spend a portion of the class time cleaning and dressing those ducks for the coach.
The stories rolled on while we pinned the laundry bags for the washer.
I write of the night of volunteering at the RHM not to brag about my church or myself — spending time in the humbling work of helping others who need a hand to lift them up — but to reveal how much I received from being a volunteer. Maybe I received more than the folks that we fed at the shelter.
Ritu Ghatourey, a female writer from India, wrote that, “When you have a bad day always remember someone else’s day is worse. Be thankful for what you have.”
She also wrote, “Sincere people, sometimes, may not be in a position to pull you up. But, they always think of ways not to let you fall.”
From the Bible, 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
Search out a chance to volunteer your time at Rowan Helping Ministries, Meals on Wheels, Good Shepherd Clinic, Red Cross, the Community Care Clinic, or any of the other agencies that need your help to lift up people so that we do not let them fall.
Oh yes, back on the trail of the green beans, where I started this column. We canned 26 quarts.

Wayne Hinshaw is a photojournalist who lives in Rowan County.