Once upon a time, (actually late last week, or the week before, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a story) a little non-profit sat forlornly on the curb with its chin in its hands. It was Christmastime, and the little non-profit didn’t have any Christmas programs to offer.
All the other non-profits had their Christmas coat drives and dinners planned. They had shelters open and parties booked. They had fund drives and toy drives and Christmas concerts galore. But the little non-profit had none of these, and was feeling self-conscious.
“If I were a real non-profit, I’d have programs,” it moped.
But then a man shuffled by in a worn-out coat. “Do you have a coat drive, because as you see, mine is worn clear through?”
“No,” said the little non-profit, “I don’t have a coat drive. I’m sorry. All I have is this big bus full of clothes, but for that you need to give something back.”
“Like what?” questioned the man suspiciously.
“Well, what can you do? Do you have a skill or talent to give? After all, everyone has a need, and everyone has a gift.”
“I used to lay carpet,” said the man, “But I haven’t had work these last few months.”
“That will do nicely,” said the little non-profit, and they got up to go look in the big bus for a coat. On the way there they met a woman with two little children. “Do you have a food drive? My children are hungry and the month is not yet half over.”
“No,” said the little non-profit, “I don’t have a food drive. I’m sorry. All I have is an emergency food pantry, but for that you need to give something back.”
“What do you mean?” asked the woman.
“Can you mend clothes?” asked the carpet layer in the worn out coat.
“Look at my children. Of course I can mend clothes,” replied the woman. Her children’s clothes seemed fine, but if you looked closely you could find here a patch or there a mended tear. But you had to look very closely indeed.
“Then come with us to the big bus,” said the little non-profit. “We have lots of donated clothes that need a little mending to make them good again. After all, everyone has a need, and everyone has a gift.”
Just as they all turned the corner, the little non-profit, the carpet layer, the seamstress and her children nearly collided with a young man on a skateboard.
“Do you have a Christmas concert I can go to? Something with Screamo?”
“No,” said the little non-profit, becoming a little more self-conscious with all these people in tow. “I don’t have a concert. All I have is a Community Center. The neighborhood children are out of school and need someone to spend time with them. Can you teach them anything? After all, everyone has a need, and everyone has a gift.”
“I can show them how to flip a skateboard,” offered the young man. So after they had visited the big bus and picked out a warm coat for the carpet layer and taken a bag of mending for the seamstress, they all went by the Community Center. The food pantry was there, and the children were all lined up on a big roll of used carpet, eating a snack. The snack was made by a retired school teacher who gave four hours a week at the center. She also gave money that bought the snacks, and heated the building, and helped pay the staff. Of course only the little non-profit knew about that part. The children all took keen interest in the skateboard, and the carpet layer looked at the big roll of carpet and the bare concrete floor, and smiled a big smile.
And the little non-profit didn’t have time to worry about not having a concert or a coat drive or a Christmas program. There was too much going on in the community. “After all, everyone has a need, and everyone has a gift. That is why we build community.”