St. Basil wrote, “Should we not give the same name of thief to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
I am hat thief. I have too many hats. I accumulate baseball caps. I go somewhere to visit, and I buy a hat. It is my souvenir. And since I am bald headed, people like to give me hats. I get hats for my birthday. I get hats at Christmas time. No matter the source of a hat, I wear the hat for a while, and then it gets put up on a shelf. After a while it gets pushed further and further back, by other hats.
I was convicted of hat thievery this morning while I was at Manna House. Today I was part of the crew doing hospitality in the backyard. The backyard, with its shade and greenery, fills with guests as soon as we open, and stays full most of the morning as guests seek to avoid the heat of the July sun.
The backyard is where guests approach me about getting on the “list” for showers or “socks and hygiene” or about special requests. I refer all the “list” requests to the “list person,” which today was Kathleen.
The special requests require some discernment. I can handle most of them by urging the person to get on “the list.” A few simply require a firm “no” as what is requested is beyond our limits. Some, thankfully, can be handled as part of the regular flow of hospitality within the necessary boundaries we have at Manna House.
“I need a piece of paper to write down a phone number.” That’s not a problem. I make a quick dash into the house and get a piece of notebook paper.
“I need the phone number for Shelby County Schools.” I can easily look that up on my phone.
“What’s the Word for today?” I shared from Psalm 80:20, “Lord God of hosts, restore us; light up your face and we shall be saved.”
But it was in the midst of such special requests, that the evidence started to pile up to convict me of hat thievery.
“I need a hat for my head. The sun is getting me.”
“Hey, can you get me a hat? I’m getting burned up on my head.”
“This shade is nice, but when I go back out there, I sure could use a hat.”
At first, I was able to confidently refer these requests to the socks and hygiene list. On Thursdays, the guests on that list can get hats.
But later in the morning, when I knew the list was full, I could not make such an easy referral. Instead, I went into the house to see if more hats could be given out. That is when I found out our hat supply is dangerously low. If I gave out more hats today, we would not have hats for the men who are signed up to shower on Monday. That’s when I remembered the words from St. Basil. And that’s when I had to confront my own hat thievery. I have more hats than I need. I have stolen them from the guests at Manna House who asked me for a hat this morning. I will give them back Monday when we open. Well, at least most of them.