Last weekend my roommate and I moved houses. Due to a series of unfortunate events, all of our friends were busy the morning of the move so we ended up spending the first several hours of Moving Day schlepping things from house to house all by ourselves. It was, to say the least, not fun.
After moving our ump-teenth load in the scorching heat, the roomie and I were exhausted, sweat-drenched, and prepared to throw in the towel (not that we had any idea where our towels were). On the verge of those particular kind of irrational but unavoidable tears brought on by overwhelming discouragement, I threw myself into the back of the truck, hoisted up another basket of who-knows-what, and swung around to hand it down.
Only this time, I stared in surprise as I deposited the basket not into my roomie’s hands, but into a pair of hands I didn’t recognize waiting beneath a smiling face I’d never seen. As I watched in mild confusion (“Is this a hallucination?”), this friendly stranger grabbed the basket and brought it inside. Then, with more energy than I’d been able to muster all morning, she continued to make countless trips from truck to house until every last thing was unloaded.
When we finished, she smiled, introduced herself as Xiomara, and after a few minutes of small talk retired to the shade of her front porch two doors down. As I watched her walk away my eyes stung with tears, but this time of a distinctly different variety. This time, they were those particular kind of insistent and unavoidable tears brought on by the most profound feeling of gratitude to someone – even (or especially) a complete stranger – who picks up your burden at the exact moment you feel you can’t carry it one step further. Not because you could not, in fact, have done it without them; because you are at risk of forgetting that you could.
It reminded me of something our Executive Director, John, says to new groups as they get ready for their first day of digging out in a community. “It’s kind of like if you were out in an enormous yard raking leaves alone, and all of a sudden a big bus of strangers pulled up, piled out, and just started raking alongside you,” he explains. “Just imagine how that would feel; they’re not saying you can’t do it, they’re just saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to help.’ ”
The same day that Xiomara helped my roomie and I move, Amigos welcomed its very first group of the summer. From now until the end of August we will host over 1,000 short term missionaries, and the amount of work they’ll accomplish will be tremendous. But perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact than the feeling they’ll create when they pull up along side the community, jump out with shovels in hand, and say, “We know you can do this; we’re just here to help.”