Service With a Smile

by Bob Smiley as told to Bob Smiley

We were eating dinner when my dad announced we’d be working at a “food bank” this weekend. I was excited! I had several things on my plate I planned to deposit.

“You can put this broccoli into a 30-year account that doesn’t draw interest,” I said, “because broccoli doesn’t draw any interest from anyone.”

My dad sighed.

“If I give them a candy bar, will they give me back two candy bars in a few months?” my brother quickly asked.

Dad explained that a food bank is a place where homeless people can eat a meal or families without much money can pick up groceries. It wasn’t a place to store my unwanted food.

Oh well.

When we went to serve at the food bank, I was given a small handheld catapult and told to stand in front of the mashed potatoes. It was the best job ever!

“Who do I try to hit?” I asked, scooping up a big glob of potatoes.

That’s when I was told my catapult was actually called a “serving spoon.” My job was to scoop mashed potatoes onto trays, not fling food across the room. This didn’t sound like as much fun. I was also told not to laugh like an evil scientist while I stirred the mashed potatoes. The lady in charge said it might scare the eaters.

“OK,” I agreed. I started to sing instead. “I serve the mash. I serve potaaaaato mash! Potato mash. It was a food bank smash.”

I thought it was clever. The cook didn’t agree.

My brother was on corn duty. Mom served chicken. Dad stood by the desserts. However, the cook switched Mom and Dad when he realized that three desserts were missing and we hadn’t even started serving yet. Dad said he needed to taste the desserts to make sure they were the right temperature. Mom explained that a taste test was not necessary—ice cream is either frozen or it’s not.

Once we were set, they opened the door so people could get a meal. The first guy walked in and smiled at me. I noticed he only had three teeth.

Of course he’s happy to see me, I thought. I have the mashed potatoes.

When you only have three teeth left, mashed potatoes is the safest thing to eat.

“Hello,” he said.

I froze. I’ve never been speechless before—no matter how often my dad has begged me to be.

“Got some taters there for me?” He grinned.

With a shaky hand, I scooped some potatoes onto his tray. I then mumbled the only thing I could think of: “God loves you.”

He grinned and said, “He sure does! God even uses people like you to help me out. Thanks for being God’s servant!”

Then he grabbed some ice cream and sat down.

I learned two things:
1. We need to be ready to help all of God’s people, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
2. Homeless people can be really nice. Just because someone looks or smells different doesn’t mean we should avoid them. (In fact, my dad reminded me that I usually walk around with boy stink.)

So go out in the world and be God’s servants! Just watch out for flying mashed potatoes.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Bob Smiley. Used by permission. Illustration © Gary Locke.