By Jessica Brodie
LEXINGTON—As the weather grew colder in South Carolina, one group of teens opened their eyes to people on the streets around them and decided to do something to help.
Youth at Lexington United Methodist Church got together this fall and handcrafted winter scarves for homeless and other people who could use a bit of warmth, both for their bodies and their hearts. They took inexpensive blankets that had been cut into strips, then cut slits on edges and tied them, making 84 scarves.
Then, on Nov. 22, they gathered in groups to distribute the scarves around downtown Lexington. Some went into the church’s blessing box, some they left on benches and tied around trees and poles at the town park, others were left along Main Street and others went to a local interfaith mission organization, Mission Lexington, to give to clients they serve.
“There are homeless people out there who are cold in the winter and need something to keep them warm,” said Lila Crosswell, a ninth grader at Lexington High who came up with the idea for the project, which was led by Lexington UMC’s youth pastor, the Rev. Elizabeth Murray.
Lila, who said the effort was relatively easy, serves as Miss All Star United States Teen Coastal Carolina, and she and her family are no stranger to service work. Through the pageants she competes in, she is often on the lookout for projects that can help others, as well as empowering others to get out there and help, too.
My personal slogan is ‘the QUEEN in you,’ and QUEEN stands for Quality Unique Educated Empowered and Nice,” Lila said. “Being a queen is not just about a pretty dress and makeup—it’s so much more than that.”
Even the smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life and make them happy, she said.
Murray loved Lila’s scarf-making idea and coordinated the service project among the church youth, which was part of “mission month” at Lexington UMC.
“It is the most rewarding feeling to get to see your youth in particular grow and explore their faith for themselves and even more so come up with ideas and want to do projects, that it’s not always me trying to bug them to say, ‘Let’s do this,’” Murray said. “For me, seeing my youth grow and those little God moments are what keep me going when I have a bad day.”
Murray said that even though many people see Lexington as an affluent community, it is not. While some do have plenty, there is a large lower-income population with people living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford everything they need. Many congregate near the church, where there is a bus stop and is a close walk to the county courthouse, so the church sees a lot of people in need. They set up a blessing box next to that bus stop, which has food, socks, bandages, granola bars, Ramen noodles, Bibles and more for the people to take as they need.
“Sometimes they have to choose between buying food and a new pair of jeans or sweatshirt, or a scarf,” Murray said.
Some of the youth’s handcrafted scarves also went into that blessing box.
Lila said she hopes she and her fellow youth at Lexington UMC will continue to make these scarves, which are quick to make and very helpful.
“If people need food, they don’t have to waste money on buying scarf,” Lila said.
Murray asked Lila to speak on Matthew 25 the evening of the scarf distribution, particularly Jesus’s command to feed, clothe and otherwise care for others as though they are doing so for Him.
“Jesus does have a mandate to care for our neighbors,” Murray said.
And in Lexington, her group of youth is doing its part to show that care.