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  • Hope on Union

Lead by Serving

A couple of weeks ago, two back-to-back winter storms, unofficially named Uri and Viola, landed one-two punches across the U.S. It included many southern states that are unaccustomed to cold temperatures, snow, and ice. The storms left extensive power outages, boil water advisories, deaths, and vehicular accidents across the multi-state area, mainly in Texas, in their wake. More than 70 people died, 58 in U.S. and 12 in Mexico, most dying of carbon dioxide poisoning or freezing to death.

This storm showed the best and the worst of our actions during a human crisis. Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator, abandoned his responsibility as an elected representative and went on a warm-weather vacation to Cancun, Mexico, during the global pandemic.

However, we also saw the best of people in the story of Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, the Gallery Furniture owner who, during the power outage and water shut off, opened his store to more than 1000 people to stay warm and have a meal. For several nights about 400 people stayed at his store, sleeping on their comfortable beds and eating warm meals he provided. When asked why he opened his stores up to people, this is what he said:

“My parents taught me when I was a little child, that the essence of living is giving, we’ve always had a saying here at Gallery Furniture that we have a responsibility for the well-being of the community, so if something bad happens, we want to be one of the first businesses to act because it’s our job to help the community, not just take money out of the community. We don’t want to necessarily make a lot of profit, we want to make a big difference in the community and make the community a better place, and when people are hurting, whether they’re going to drown during Hurricane Harvey or they’re going to freeze to death during this winter storm, it’s our responsibility to step up and take a leading position.”

He used the same language we use as a church: to make a difference in the community, to make the community a better place, and when people are hurting, it is our responsibility to help. The rest of the story is that Mattress Mack also went on to donate an additional 1 million dollars to help people in the community. This is what a community leader does when the community hurts.

If a business whose main purpose is to make money is doing the good work in the community, we must recognize just how much more we are asked to serve the community as a church. As we redevelop our site, we need to work to be leaders in the community by serving and meeting the needs of our neighbors. Many of us have found great joy in serving at our food bank ministry led by April, as well as the diaper ministry. At this time, we are strategically utilizing our property to provide short-term housing for a Syrian asylum seeker who was a victim of racist attacks, which led to him being homeless. We are also involved in supporting the workers’ fight for living wages and better working conditions in our partnership with CLUE – Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

Let us lead by serving.

Photo credit: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

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