The Bottom Line vs. Those That Line the Bottom

A wall hanging at St. Timothy’s soup kitchen
At a recent commencement speech to the 2012 graduates of Loyola University, Father Gregory Boyle (see my post on Father G’s ministry) said:
“Loyola has not prepared you for the real world. It has asked you to challenge it, to be less concerned with the bottom line and more concerned with those that line the bottom.”
For the last week, “issues” at work have had me irritated and stressed out. Lately, practicing endocrinology has been relatively straightforward; being an employer . . . not so much.
Today was different. We closed the office after lunch and hosted today’s meal at the Friends in the Desert Foundation [1] in downtown Henderson. Everyone chipped in to chop celery & carrot sticks, make pasta salad, bag up cheese doodles & dill pickles and grill 120 hamburgers and hot dogs.  For dessert we made Rice-Crispy treats and no-bake cookies.  We loaded everything up at 4:15 PM and headed to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, which hosts the meal.  We started pouring milk at 4:55 PM and then fired up an assembly line. By 5:25 PM we had served about 100 meals, cleaned the kitchen and were pulling out of the parking lot.

Assembly Line @ T – 5 minutes
What we did today was not difficult, nor was it complicated. Pretty much anyone could do it. But it was a very different Wednesday afternoon from the normal routine for us. Normally our team works ten-hour days taking care of complex medical problems, which really can’t be treated in a regular medical office. [2] The staff is very adept at checking to make sure all the details are correct before the patients are seen. This includes verification of eligibility and benefits, prior authorizations, compiling lab results, updating addresses, payment of copays and outstanding balances, etc. 
Today’s clients were mostly homeless and living in the desert; at best they were severely under employed. They have virtually nothing.  Many had mental illness or poor health (I spotted at least one diabetic foot). Without exception, they were down on their luck. They were certainly not the beautiful people. Yet nobody was turned away.  They were all welcomed with open arms and on their own terms.  Without doubt, this is what makes St. Timothy’s such a special place. I am certain that when ‘the King‘ goes out for dinner in Las Vegas, he prefers a back table in the fellowship hall at St. Timothy’s.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40
This project felt bigger and more important than might seem logical, considering what we normally do at work each day.  Today, we were certainly out of our element, but we made a difference in a small way that meant so much to these people. We must not forget that ‘by small and simple things are great things brought to pass‘ (Alma 37:6). As I was reflecting on the small things of this day, I realized that my annoyance coefficient has dropped by an order of magnitude. Miraculous! Perhaps it was because we were worrying less about the bottom line and more about those that line the bottom. 


[1] Since 1998, it has been serving hot meals for around 100 homeless and disadvantaged members of our community daily at precisely 5:00 PM.  In a year, that translates into over 20,000 hot meals and around 4500 sack lunches.  It is 100%-operated by volunteers from multiple congregations, organizations and businesses in the community.  The goal is “to serve ‘the least of these our brothers’ with a dignity that they otherwise don’t see.” Contact them to help make a difference. 
[2] For example, yesterday a patient’s husband insisted on seeing Kevin immediately and in private; he had no appointment and didn’t want medical care (Kevin said he thought the guy was going to shoot him or something).  In reality guy wanted to thank him for saving his wife’s life, and insisted on hugging him instead of a handshake.

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