Cleaning I got to bottom of one of the boxes… smelly markers (no I didn’t try them all, I just decided to keep them, never know when I’ll need to sniff the lemon) , scissors, rulers and glue sticks galore and there sat the hat among the muck. He wasn’t exactly sitting, but was indeed looking up at me and I remembered the promise.
“Nancy, I’ll give you the hat if you keep it out and remember the story of how it saved my life in China.” my dad solemnly said.
Here is the story as I remember it.
I was staying in rural northern China in a ‘coal plant’ operator’s home. He didn’t have any heat, I was colder than I ever had been in my whole life. I dug through my suitcase and put on everything I could think of to stay warm that night. There was my hat at the bottom. Even though it didn’t cover my ears, the top of my head was covered. I should have remembered the hat first. If you cover your head you’re whole body will be warmer. Nancy, always wear a hat.
I kept it hanging in my classroom always, the spirit of Bob Olson, my father, and all the advice he’d given.
fast forward to Thursday night………………………………………………………………………………………….
I was doing Intake for our food pantry. I looked up happily, to start getting information from my next guest. My dad’s hat was perched on a gentleman’s head.
He was exactly my dad’s age.
His hands were my dad’s hands.
His wedding ring looked like my dad’s wedding ring.
I knew my dad was in his cozy chair, in our cozy back porch, with the heat up to 90, reading his paper from two days ago (he reads every word in the paper), my mom was in her chair beside him, watching the shows and commenting every once in a while, trying to plan the next Olson birthday party.
They were warm, happy, somewhat healthy.
This man was not.
He had tears in his eyes as he explained that his wife was an invalid and he cared for her needs daily. His grand-daughter lived with them; she was mentally ill. His daughter had just come back home trying to get clean. He had crashed his car, so he didn’t know how he would get the groceries. He didn’t know how he could bring is daughter to the methadone clinic. He was worried about his grand-daughter and if she would be able to get her next dose of medicine.
He had on my dad’s hat.
I silently prayed, please God, may our church be able to help him tonight. May we fill his cart with fresh groceries, may everyone be kind. Please God, if anyone needs a car, this man does. Answer his prayers tonight.
His hands were my dad’s hands, his life was not my dad’s life.
Why is it so hard for so many people?
The man looked at me after his story… he was worn out from the telling.
“Do you have a drinking fountain somewhere?” the man asked.
“Sure, I’ll take you over there.”
Standing at the fountain I said, ” Pick some great food tonight. I like your hat, I ‘m sure it keeps you pretty warm. I was glad to be able to talk to you tonight.”
PS I serve in an amazing church that has an incredible Care Center. We are lucky to serve many, many people who need help, every week with our grocery store, children’s clothes ministry and cars ministry. We have a legal team volunteering and recently have opened a dental and vision clinic. If you happen to know someone who lives in the northern Chicago suburbs that need help, please send them our way. It has been my pleasure to serve at the Willow Creek Care Center for the last eight years. It is my favorite thing to do each week… Here is a link to the Care Center website.