In the early 1990s, I served as the Director of Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than upward mobility.
First lesson: the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, with many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities dependent on the mission of the respective agency.
Second lesson: the cornerstone for all the agencies operated under the basic tenet of serving the people. But the lifeblood of those agencies were the people.
Sound like a civics lesson? Please bear with me.
I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, but good benefits with some of the best people I have ever had the honor to know. Day by day, my respect for these dedicated and caring government employees deepened. They are the “hidden heroes” behind that bureaucracy, held up by that cornerstone tenet, that makes our country work.
One such person, Debbie Landers, is dear to me, as well as to so many others whose lives she continues to touch. Her health is not as good as it once was, but her heart and spirit are stronger than ever as she continues to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years. During this time, her daughter and granddaughter have joined her.
She often shares her gratitude for the large and the small things in her life. I have her permission to share the following which she posted a few years ago on Facebook.
Debbie’s Way of Serving
“Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. A group of volunteers came to share a meal with our guests and their companionship with them was heart-felt.
These volunteers came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special.”
Later, I was talking with one of the guys who told me that one year ago, he had lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless.
As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he told me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.
It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation.
Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night.
So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand as folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”
Her words and her service touched my heart then and it still serves to remind me that in this confusing and chaotic world we live in today, it doesn’t take much to make it better…just a little help to our friends.
Debbie is a living legacy that I am blessed to call friend. I am grateful to have her in my life in this season of giving Thanks.
Let’s all get busy serving!
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.”
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