The windows in your church may have been made in my hometown, or the glass you used to sip your orange juice this morning.
We’ve been manufacturing glass here since 1890, when the abundance of natural gas and sandstone made Lancaster, Ohio, a natural choice for factories that blew and pressed lanterns, cups and glasses, jars and decorative chotchkies. Even today, the glass factory is the second largest employer in the entire county.
Or it was. Until it closed.
Technically, the company furloughed the employees for what they said would be a three or four week period to reduce inventory and improve its liquidity while they negotiated terms with their creditors. They have indicated there may be a potential permanent shut down… and they have also called some people back to work. It’s an unresolved and unsettling situation for the 1,100 local employees and their families.
But me? I’m unaffected. I just live here. I don’t work there.
Sure, my city might lose $875,000 a year in tax revenue. Sure, there may be a big ugly environmental disaster in the heart of town if the factory shuts down for good. Sure, hundreds of my neighbors may be out of a job. But not me!
My neighbors… my neighbors… wait a minute, didn’t Jesus say something about loving our neighbors?
Of course He did, and that’s why we can’t sit idly by while our neighbors are suffering. I have never been so proud of my little city as in the past few weeks since this situation unfolded. Government agencies quickly formed a task force dedicated to devoted to connecting employees with public resources such as unemployment benefits, medical services and food assistance. Local pizza shops, hair salons, and pet stores offered discounts and free services to affected employees. When a food pantry closed because they were out of food, citizens filled their van with donations three times over and gave thousands of dollars to restock the shelves.
Many local churches combined efforts to host a “We Care” Rally that offered free food, bounce houses, sno cones, popcorn, corn hole, face painting and tons more kid’s games, plus access to local government agencies and charitable organizations, as well as spiritual support and encouragement. Other businesses even donated food and sent volunteers! I’ll never forget standing with hundreds of my neighbors in a public school playground while four pastors from different churches and our Police Chief prayed over our city! Amen!
When the mother of one of the furloughed employees organized a prayer rally on the sidewalk in front of the factory, two different television news crews showed up. Why is it news when people pray? Because people from different congregations, different neighborhoods and different backgrounds don’t often lift our voices as one.
Crisis builds community. It’s one of the ways God works good out of bad. I’m not glad this happened, but I’m forever grateful for the way it has opened our eyes—and our hearts, and our hands—to our neighbors.