Jim and I stood in the little room off the chapel.  It was quiet.

He was showing me the zip lock bags holding an assortment of individual portions of food.  Fruit cups, green beans.  Cans of stew.  Snack items and treats children enjoy.  In zip lock bags.  Securely snuggled deep in a new red backpack on wheels, pulled along by the type of handle you see on luggage at O’Hare.

It was Sunday.  Gail, Matt and I were at the Salvation Army corps in Niles MI.  Its small group of Soldiers is led by Captains Bill and Tracey Walters.  It’s not unlike many corps.  But it is making an impact in its southwest Michigan community of 11,600.

Last year, an anonymous donor came to Salvation Army staff offering $20,000 each year for 5 years for the Army to do something for Niles’ school children who receive free or subsidized meals during the week but go home to be hungry for the weekend.  Captains Walters and the Army’s caseworker, Jan Nowak, accepted the offer.  Now, with the help of volunteers, the red backpacks are filled with zip lock bags providing for many children their main meals Saturday and Sunday.  Its food they can open and eat, or warm in a microwave.

Are home conditions really that bad?  Jim, Captain Bill, and Jan tell me it is no exxageration.  That children go uncared for.  Maybe money is scarce, maybe it’s drugs, maybe just plain hopelessness.

The red backpacks were lined up in rows, 50 of them ready to again be filled with food, delivered to three elementary schools, for kindergarten to 5th grade students to wheel home.

Jim is one of the volunteers.  He’s also a Salvation Army Soldier.  Standing in the little room next to the chapel he said one of the boys told him that he had never in all his life been chosen for anything.  He couldn’t believe that he had been chosen to have his backpack filled with food.

It was hard for Jim to tell the story.  It was hard for me to look down at these red backpacks, lined up, with their zip lock bags.

The eyes of all wait upon thee and thou givest them their meat in due season; thou openest thy hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)

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