The first two years of my marriage were scary. Two weeks after being married, I was appointed to pastor a church that was two and a half hours from my parents. I married this wonderful woman who couldn’t cook. When she made her first pot of coffee for the church board, she used one scoop of coffee for each cup. She almost killed them.
Two years later, we were transferred to a city that was 15 minutes from my parents. My mom began to teach my wife all the nuances of cooking Italian. This sweet Italian boy would no longer have to yearn for great food from his childhood. I could now enjoy it in my marriage.
My father taught my wife to make Italian antipasto. No, it’s not what you get when you order in an Italian restaurant. No, there is no lettuce and tomatoes. There is sharp provolone cut into small squares, mozzarella, salami, pickled peppers, green and black olives and artichoke hearts. It’s funny watching my wife make it. She makes enough for an army, then shares it with everyone after the holiday meal is over. When I remind her how much it costs, she looks at me and says, “We’re giving it to them anyway. It’s our way of saying, “I love you.”
On Thanksgiving Day, she wears a blouse, skirt and an apron. One year, she wore pearls. That’s when I knew I married June Cleaver. On the 1960s TV show, “Leave it to Beaver,” June created a safe haven for Wally and the Beaver to understand life. She had cookies and milk for them when they returned from school. Even though Eddie Haskell tried to take Wally down the wrong path, he always knew he was loved, even when he messed up.
Maybe the Charlotte Rescue Mission is like “Leave it to Beaver.” We work with people struggling with addiction and tell them the wonder of God’s love. Just like Wally who listened to Eddie Haskell, they may have grieved the heart of God, but He is not throwing them under the bus.
Let me take this idea one step further. Wally and the Beaver are safe in that family because they are their children, even when they are disobedient. But what about Eddie Haskell? What about the person who comes to the Rescue Mission on Thanksgiving Day to enjoy a holiday meal with us or the family who receives one of our fabulous Thanksgiving Food boxes?
Eddie was always welcomed into the Cleaver family. He wasn’t judged or condemned. He was loved. I’m sure when he ate one of June’s famous cookies, he knew that this family was different. They just loved him. Not because, nor not if … he was loved.
Why do we pull out all the stops on Thanksgiving Day beginning with a hot, made-to-order breakfast or movies all day long? Why are the tables in the mid-day meals covered with cloth tablecloths and cloth napkins flowing out of long stem goblets? Why are the volunteers dressed in white shirts, black pants and black bow ties? Why do we deliver well over 1,600 Thanksgiving food boxes in closed top banker’s boxes or plastic totes? Why are we so specific about the food items we require in those boxes? Is it about the food? Was it about June Cleaver’s chocolate chip cookies?
No. The food we serve; the food boxes we give away; the attention we pay to the details; all those things are a tool we use to make the love of God so real, that the people we serve can touch it.
I’ll be back in a few weeks. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Visit www.charlotterescuemission.org for details.