The Power of Storytelling: When Numbers Become Stories

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

A dilapidated stove sits on the back porch, along with some broken furniture and a bag of tattered clothing. A volunteer and I knock on the paint peeled door, unsure of what to expect. Lock jiggling, we see a brown eye peering through the crack. “We are here from Love INC,” I say. The door opens quickly and a smile erupts as our hostess graciously invites us in.

I try not to draw my breath in surprise. An immaculate flat with gleaming golden oak floors beams at us. Our friend introduces herself and her children. They also smile big and thank us for coming. They are sitting on the floor, eating homemade biscuits balanced on a napkin. There is no furniture in this home, no plates for the food--just a single plastic stacking chair in the kitchen which they reserve for mama. Teenage girls grin, sitting cross-legged on linoleum.

My volunteer and I are here on a home visit. Recently our Love INC affiliate began a "Beds and Blessings" ministry providing bunk beds, mattresses and bedding for families in need. This is our first client, and I am here to observe the process at the start, so I can write the procedures for these volunteer opportunities. Typically, these visits verify the need and check the space to ensure there is room for our gift. The need is apparent, and the empty rooms ensure plenty of space.

The solitary chair is surrounded by mounds of neatly folded bedding used to make pallets for this mom and her six children. They’ve been living like this for the past two months. After recently fleeing domestic abuse, this brave family spent time in a shelter and are now venturing out on their own. They're clearly happy to be together.

Much time is spent at our board meetings discussing people just like these. “Forty three families were served by Love INC this month,” we say. Or, “50 volunteers gave 412 hours this quarter,” boast. But this family? They are not just a number; they are royalty. The children are princes and princesses who treat their brave warrior mama like the queen that she is. They have made a home out of the shambles of their lives, grateful for napkins and a plastic chair.

What a pleasure it will be to deliver not only two bunk beds, but also two single beds, a couch, a dining room table, chairs, and several small pieces of furniture to this family!

At the close of our visit, we ask to pray for them. The family gathers in a circle, linking hands in various shades of brown. When my companion and I finish our petitions, our hostess prays for us. She thanks God for sending generous Christians to help and asks Him to bless our homes and families. A familiar lump in my throat and stinging in my eyes threatens to reveal swelling emotions.

Sometimes, experiencing the story of a life makes cold hard numbers a beautiful thing.


Author bio: Kim Sullivan is the executive director of Love INC of Tinley Park, IL, a non-profit service organization that brings together local churches, volunteers, and community agencies to help people in need. Kim began this new career in 2012 after “retiring” from home educating her three children. Kim submitted this piece, which originally appeared on her blog, as part of a communty link-up on "The Power of Storytelling at Work."

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