Helen and Ellen

This morning, I allowed myself a leisurely start to the new day in celebration of my birthday. On my way to the kitchen for breakfast, I heard familiar voices resounding from our television set. When I turned to see who had stirred my memory, I saw double. I really did. The elder good deacon had been listening to Oprah as he sorted through some paperwork. I asked if this was a rerun because I recognized the two women who sat opposite Oprah from a past show. Mike reminded me that Oprah is bringing back her favorite guests for this final season, and Helen and Ellen are among them.

Though I’ve occasionally enjoyed watching Oprah over the years, I can’t claim to be a regular viewer or an avid fan. Apparently, Oprah doesn’t mind my lack of consistency because she provided me a wonderful birthday gift in the persons of Helen and Ellen. I’d already read today’s scripture passages several times, and I’d made my weekly plea for inspiration from above. I’d also secretly hoped that the Spirit would be especially generous this time around because this birthday is a BIG one and I felt the need for a bit more encouragement than usual. As it happened, I received much more than I’d hoped for.

Helen and Ellen are eighty-two year old twin sisters who run Love’s Kitchen, a special place in Knoxville, Tennessee, which they founded in 1986 to feed the hungry. Though they are of modest means themselves, these sisters undertook this venture because they truly wanted to live in keeping with what they’d learned about God. They shared their most important lessons with Oprah: “There is one father, Our Heavenly Father; there is one race, the Human Race; and never take the last piece of bread from the table because someone hungrier than you might come in.” As the interview continued, these two lovable women shared more of their simple, yet profound wisdom. Finally, Helen explained the reason they continue to cook for the hungry, the homeless, the homebound and the hopeless who depend upon Love’s Kitchen for a meal each week. “Everybody is God’s Somebody,” Helen said. What more reason do Helen and Ellen need to love and care for those around them?

Indeed, everybody is God’s Somebody! If you don’t believe this, consider today’s scripture passages. When the people complain about God’s seeming lack of concern for them, the prophet Isaiah (49:14-15) speaks for God when he says, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” St. Paul’s faith in God’s attention to his ministry simply cannot be shaken. Paul, convinced that God is aware of what is in his heart, dismisses everything others have to say about him and everyone else who serves in God’s name. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:1-5) tells us that in the end “…everyone will receive praise from God.” In Matthew’s gospel (6:24-34), Jesus underscores what Isaiah and Paul have to say. Jesus insists that the God who feeds the birds of the air and who clothes wild flowers in splendor will do far more for us. In his words today and though everything he said and did, Jesus repeated this lesson regarding God’s love for us. Each of us is God’s beloved. Each of us is God’s Somebody whose presence in this world cannot be overvalued and must not be overlooked.

Helen and Ellen were discovered by a woman, now a millionaire, who suffered homelessness and despair several years earlier. When she heard about Love’s Kitchen, this woman assumed the role of the homeless woman she once was and visited Helen and Ellen for a meal. These amazing ladies embraced this guest as they do everyone who comes to their table. This woman was so moved by Helen’s and Ellen’s ministry that she rewarded their kindness with an amazing donation that insures their work for some time. It seems to me that Helen and Ellen and their millionaire friend speak God’s message to us today quite eloquently: You and I are God’s Somebody. This brings God’s absolute guarantee that we are loved simply because we are who we are. This also brings God’s expectation that we will look upon and honor one another just as God looks upon and honors us. What more reason do we need to love God and to love and care for those we’ve been given to love? Everybody is God’s somebody!

©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


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