Once upon a time, I worked at a non-profit. I spent my days volunteering in classrooms, helping kids with homework, cooking pancakes and spaghetti, making up crazy skits and driving teenagers home after youth group. And once a month, I had to write a “support letter” in hopes of convincing folks to keep sending money so that these things could keep happening. I never really minded this task as much as many of my fellow interns… it was easy for me to pick out a story or two that showed how kids were benefiting from my friends’ generosity. Because they were. The part that I minded was the printing and copying of the support letters.
You see, this was in the olden days before everyone was connected a thousand ways on the internet. And we had one old copy machine locked away in the basement. Half the time it was broken and as most of the folks around specialized in teaching kids and teenagers, and not machine maintenance, making 30 copies of those letters often became quite an ordeal.
The truth is, I didn’t want to be bothered with trying to line up the letterhead and coax each page through the machine. Surely this was wasting time that I could be spending doing the real work of loving kids and teaching them about Jesus.
One day I had pleaded for mercy from the long-suffering administrative assistant who had both master keys and mad expertise at clearing paper jams. We were together in that basement room when her words rocked my world. “You know,” she said, “people love to give to causes that stir their heart. Everyone wants to buy gifts for poor kids at Christmas. Everyone wants to donate toward an extreme home makeover for a single mom. No one wants to repair copy machines.”
I met Jesus in the copy room that day.
My heart was stirred to see the necessity of the un-glamorous. Someone has to give to keep that copy machine running. And to keep the lights on. And to put gas in the vans. And to allow the administrative assistant to be able to feed her daughter. I decided that if I ever got a “grown-up” job, I would not allow my giving to be restricted to causes with big, pleading eyes and heart-breaking stories. I finished making those copies and sent off those letters and spent the rest of the year loving kids, having honest conversations about faith and fighting monthly with the copy machine.
Today I have a grown-up job and I’m blessed to be able to give to a variety of causes that stir my heart. Goodness knows I am still a sucker for big, pleading eyes. And I think that’s ok. I also have an unwavering conviction in own my journey to do good, be rich in good works, be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18) that somebody’s got to keep that copy machine running too.
Because the truth is that the real work of Jesus’ transformation happens in classrooms and in churches. At afterschool programs and on narrow city streets. In kitchens and on sidewalks. And sometimes even in that tiny copy room in the basement.