By Steven Norris

     “This has restored my faith in humanity.” So said a Griffin firefighter as he volunteered his “off time” over the Christmas holiday weekend to serve folks in our community.
     The idea started in a Sunday school class a week prior to Christmas. Our church has been going through a series called the “Advent Conspiracy,” taking a long hard look at the ways in which our culture celebrates the Christmas season. The themes included cultivating a heart of worship, relationships, generosity, and Christ-like service.
     On Sunday, December 18th, that particular Sunday school class noted the frigid temperatures that were expected in Griffin and felt compelled to use our church facility as a “warming center” for the homeless. I thought it was a brilliant idea that sounded exactly like the kind of thing Jesus would have done.
    Within 48 hours, however, the plan ground to a halt. Meeting with leaders of the city and county, there were just too many questions that had no satisfactory answers. At one point, someone said, “I just don’t know how we can do this.” I am thankful that we did not quit.
     By the end of the day on Tuesday, we had formulated a skeletal plan. By Wednesday, we had over one hundred volunteers willing to serve round-the-clock and making it possible to keep the church doors open from Thursday through Monday (eighty-five hours in all).
     By Thursday, community members were clamoring to provide food for the guests. One grandmother called to say that her grandson wanted nothing for Christmas but to be able to feed the homeless. He made a whole tray of ham and turkey sandwiches and brought them by the church. Other community members brought soup, chicken, grits, muffins, snacks, and even a full Christmas dinner on Saturday.
     When the call went out for pillows and blankets, Griffin turned out in force. All throughout the afternoon on Christmas Eve, the lobby filled with pillows, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, shoes, and a number of other items to try to keep folks warm. A number of the warming center “guests” joined our services on Sunday morning as we worshipped the homeless man, Jesus of Nazareth.
     I would like to take this space to extend a public “Thank You” to the agencies who not only talked about helping, but showed up to volunteer: City Manager, Jessica O’Connor; Mike Yates and the Griffin Police Department; John Hamilton and the City of Griffin Fire Department; Glenn Polk and the Spalding County Fire Department; as well as all those who volunteered or brought supplies throughout the weekend.
     I stopped by many times throughout the weekend. No one was worried about which church people attended, which denomination, political party, or who they voted for in the last election. Instead, they found solidarity in service to our community.
     The scriptures teach: “Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in action and truth” (1 John 3:18). May this wonderful example of a community coming together characterize the true heart of our city in the coming year.