By Dick Duerksen
“If you want to hear a great Christian concert, come on over to the New Hope Church Saturday night for a fantastic free concert with Laura Story, you know, the “Blessings” singer! All you gotta do is show up with a pair of clean socks and a can of beans. You’ll love it!”
It sounded too good to be true, so we decided to go. My wife, Brenda, gathered the beans and the socks, and I started the old van. It was typical Portland; a cold and drizzly night where the streetlights reflected like stars on the wet pavement.
“Why socks?” I asked.
“Homeless people like clean dry socks,” Brenda answered.
We had given away socks earlier in the year, August in fact, when we were trying to advertise a free clinic to the “Houseless People” of Portland. I was on a sock run one afternoon, driving a “too-nice” car up 82nd to the Springwater Trail and wishing I was riding a beat-up bicycle instead. Five or six fellows lounged around a corner gas station, so I stopped, dismounted, and asked the closest guy if he would like to come to a free clinic.
“Whatchagot?” he asked.
“A pair of genuine COSTCO bright white crew socks size large. Warm!”
“Don’t want’em! Got any weed?” His eyes glittered as his hands reached towards mine.
“No. Sorry. Just socks and free health care.”
He said something unkind about my mother and then stumbled away while the other four fellows turned their backs on my offerings. That was tough on my ego, especially since I had been told, “for certain,” that all houseless people wanted clean socks.
The “bouncers” met us at the tall glass doors of the church, hands out for socks and beans. We gladly gave our offerings, slipped across a nearly-empty lobby, and found two seats in the back row of the balcony next to two worshippers who frowned and then moved as far away from us as they could. I think, maybe, we were sitting in their pew.
We added our voices to the music. (The Portland Adventist Hospital Praise Band asked everyone to sing along, so it was OK.) We laughed at the humorous moments (like when Laura asked her tiny daughter to say Hi and when Terry gave Laura a HUGE FULL BOX of VOODOO Donuts!) And we teared up when Laura shared that she had written the song “Blessings” when her family was dealing with her husband’s brain tumor. The evening truly was a spiritual feast.
Then, after the last note had been played, we walked downstairs. The church lobby was no longer empty. It now had become a warehouse for socks and beans! Grocery sacks, boxes, bags, and bunches of socks climbed up toward the tops of the tall glass windows. Cans of beans, corn, peas, cranberry sauce, peaches, and other stuff stood in precarious towers.
The bouncers? They were busily preparing the “offering” to give to the Houseless of Portland. I’ll bet they’ll make even my “weed” guy happy!
We shoulda brought more socks.