You open Your hand and provide for the desires of every living thing.

Psalm 145:16

A Band-Aid (guest writer Jenny Steele, Regional Director for Hand2Hand)

August 11, 2017

"God is love.” I John 4:16

“Some people think that what you do is simply a band-aid and it’s not addressing the real issue. They’re not sure they want to be a part of something like that.”

I heard this recently from a friend, but to be honest, it wasn’t the first time I had heard it. I work as a Regional Director for Hand2Hand, a ministry that connects churches and schools and creates a system in which hungry students take a backpack full of food home each weekend. The families we serve have a physical need and are without the resources to meet that need. And so we apply “band-aids”, I’ve been told on numerous occasions. We do not create income streams for the families. We do not create jobs. We merely slap a temporary solution on a greater problem. A hungry belly filled for a weekend, only to be hungry again next week...and the cycle continues.

This comment has been stirring in my mind and has made me wonder, “What does a band-aid really do?” Recently, my rough-and-tumble 5-year-old ran to me with a bloody elbow but refused a band-aid, wanting to keep playing. It healed enough, but then opened up again. Healed again, only to open. When he finally let me apply a band-aid days later, complete healing finally took place. It was in that moment that I realized that a band-aid is simply a tool; a bridge to healing. If Hand2Hand is seen as a band-aid ministry, perhaps that isn’t the put-down it was intended to be; perhaps it recognizes that ours is an organization that God uses to begin to heal wounds of all forms.

I think of a student at my son’s suburban school, who was recently placed in foster care with her siblings. She, along with 53 other students at the school, had consistently been receiving weekly food in her locker since Hand2Hand started there two years earlier. She sat in the principal’s office, tears streaming down her face as she processed her new reality, and wondered aloud how he knew she would be okay. Everything she knew had been turned upside down. “Remember the bag you get every Friday?” he asked. “ That is something you can rely on. Has there ever been a week when the bag wasn’t there?” She shook her head. “The people who put that bag there, they do it because they care about you. They know that you’re worth that bag of food and so much more. They love you and won’t ever let you down.” And slowly, the tears dried and hope grew. The part he couldn’t say, as a public school employee, was that the church members left that bag in her locker, and prayed for her, because she is a precious child of the living God, a daughter of the King. She is loved more than she can imagine! The church delivered that love to her locker each week in the form of a simple bag of food. The band-aid of a bag offered the healing of hope.

I remember hearing of a family who had never - who insisted they would never - step foot in a church. Their past had been hard and the parents didn’t feel they were the right “fit” for church. How often does this happen? So many see God as keeping score, as condemning more than loving. How beautiful, then, when the Church, His Church, steps in and loves unconditionally and without judgement. For those who would never enter a church, the Church quietly enters into their lives in the form of a weekend food bag. Before long, when this family heard that their supporting church was hosting a fall festival, they decided to go and eventually learned of a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love. It isn’t simply that God has love; the disciple John tells us that God is love, and this family was able to feel that love long before they stepped into a church. To this family, the band-aid of a food bag offered the healing of real love - of the Father’s love.

I think back to a conversation I had with a teacher last Spring, when she reminded me of the school-related impact of a Hand2Hand bag. For many students we serve, the physical effects of hunger have taken root in poor academic performance due to an inability to focus on anything outside of their hunger. Before Hand2Hand, her student had limited food each weekend and came to school hungry every Monday. He always acted out early in the week, finding it nearly impossible to concentrate. As he received his free school lunches throughout the week, his behavior improved as his stomach filled, but Mondays and Tuesdays were always a struggle. Once he started receiving food bags each Friday and had more food over the weekends, the early parts of the week started looking like the latter parts always had. His positive involvement and participation increased while the distractions he created decreased. With his stomach now filled throughout the week, his grade rose over time and he was able to be the child he was created to be - learning, engaging, helping. His band-aid of a food bag led to the healing of improved academic performance.

Often, the band-aid of a food bag is simply a temporary aid out of hunger. Regardless of what comes of it, we rejoice in each story of a hungry stomach filled! Last year, a high school student struggled through a weight class. When his teacher asked why he couldn’t continue, he plainly stated, “I’m just so hungry, Coach.” This boy, really a man, had no food at home. And because of that, he didn’t have the energy he needed to learn, to perform, to thrive. A Hand2Hand volunteer learned of this situation and brought a bag overflowing with food to the teacher, who immediately gave it to the student. Within moments of receiving it, this young man began weeping in the school hallway. His arms were heavy not with weights, but with food to see him through the days ahead. The bag didn’t address the larger issue of why the student didn’t have food at home, but it did answer our call as believers, who are told, “… if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 57:10) We are blessed to be a blessing.

At Hand2Hand, we deeply believe that every single student and family that we serve is adored by a loving Father more than they can even begin to comprehend, and we believe that every child should be given every opportunity to fulfill his or her God-given potential. If that was something we could just hand to each student, we would. But since we can’t, we give a bag instead. A bag of food to create a bridge to healing. Initially the bag is just a bridge to a full stomach, but also a bridge to a body of imperfect believers trying to represent a perfect love. And it’s our prayer that, ultimately, over time, God uses these 4,000 weekly band-aids to heal loneliness, hopelessness, “I’m not good enough”. It’s our prayer that these food bags are a bridge to our loving God.

Jenny Steele

Regional Hand2Hand Director of Northern Kent County