To tell you about the back door, I must explain the front door first.
When one enters the front door of a little shop at the corner of Main St and Williams St in downtown Lancaster, SC, you’re greeted with the same words that you’ll hear at every shop within walking distance. “How ya doing, today?”. How’s your mama?”
Ray’s Flower’s is your local flower shop, nestled right next to the owner’s husband’s accounting firm. Ray’s is where you go to order your son’s corsage for his first prom date. It’s where you go to send birthday flowers and balloons to your best friend. And flowers for your daddy’s grave. And Aunt Mary’s funeral. It’s where your sweet thang probably ordered your Valentine roses from. Ray’s Flowers is as much a part of Lancaster’s history as is the cotton industry.
The back door.
The back door is really a door that opens up to a side street that’s away from the usual traffic of Main. When a knock comes to the back door, it has nothing to do with flowers, but everything to do with compassion and a growing problem in our community.
The gentleman standing at the door is often a man that spent his night a few doors down, sleeping on the sidewalk. He wants to know if you possibly have a cup of coffee and a goody bag for him. The next knock comes from a rail thin young lady that thanks you profusely for a bag of those goodies. The next woman is a grandma looking for a bag for her grand babies. One knock is sure to be from the older man that slowly pushed his walker from the northern side of downtown.
For years and years, Susan, Brenda, Mitch, and Diana have quietly fed the knockers. The young, the old, the drunks and the drug addicts, the homeless and the ones just down on their luck. When someone asks her about the lady that came in a nice car and wanted bags she possibly did not need, Susan’s response is always “It’s not for me to judge. That’s between them and God”.
Over the years as this back door ministry has grown, a handful of wonderful churches have contributed and supported. Unfortunately, COVID has stopped much of that these days. COVID hasn’t stopped the knockers or their rumbling stomachs. Supplies are running low.
This upcoming week is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness week. Many non profit organizations are partnering to bring awareness and assistance to those in our community. This is fantastic and is fully supported by this blog writer. I encourage everyone to do their part. Not just this week, but every single day.
Next month, the same knockers will still be knocking. The knocks will grow as word of mouth continues to spread. They will all have one common need…. a goody bag. Six months down the road, I suspect they will still be knocking. The need is never ending.
Want to help?
The goody bags are generally gallon sized bags that contain a small meal. Items that generally go in these bags are non perishables and street friendly. Can openers and utensils are not normally available under the benches some of them sleep under. Nor is a refrigerator. But there are a few that actually do tell you that they have a can opener!
Water or juice plastic bottles, a pack of Nabs, a can of ravioli or Vienna sausage, plastic utensils, pudding, tuna snack packs, and a pack of cookies are some suggestions. Bibles are also placed in many of the bags of the newbies.
I work in that adjacent green stucco building owned by Susan’s husband. As I’m counting beans on a daily basis, I can look out of my window and see first hand what a difference Ray’s Flowers is making in our community. I see the old man pushing his walker through our parking lot. He’s got his goody bag. The same frail girl showed up at our office when they were closed one afternoon begging for food. I have a piece of paper on my desk from another with a number to call her. She wants to work for food. I see the Veteran drunk man screaming at demons I hope I never encounter. I’ve shown up for work and found a makeshift camp on our stoop when torrential rains came through.
Ray’s Flowers has quietly embraced for years what we should all be doing….Loving God. Loving Others. And Serving both.
If you want to help, reach out to me or the awesome crew down on the corner of Main and Williams!
Until next time,