A Pocketful of Eggs

Terry Lieb Judging Others, Living out your Faith 3 Comments

I was cooking up a big pan of scrambled eggs when Molly came over and said, “Terry, we’ve got plenty of help back here. We could use you better out in the social room talking with folks!”

Our adult Sunday school class was volunteering to help serve breakfast at an inner-city church. In some ways working in the kitchen provided volunteers with a legitimate hiding place. You could be serving without having to step out of your comfort zone by interacting with the guests, most of whom were struggling for a variety of reasons.

As a known extravert with a special fondness for “characters,” it was no surprise that Evelyn came to me for help out in the social room. I handed my apron to a young lady and went out into the dining area, scanning the rather diverse and very interesting group of folks to determine who I should approach.

A senior gentleman in well-worn, ill-fitting clothes who was sitting alone immediately caught my eye. When I looked closer, he appeared to be scooping scrambled eggs into the side pocket of his tattered coat!

I went over and asked if I could join him. He quickly nodded. Scraping the last of his scrambled eggs into his coat pocket, he winked at me and said, “I have ketchup packets back at my room in the Y. I get them free at McDonald’s!”

We introduced ourselves and during the course of the conversation, Harold mentioned he had had a law practice with two partners for over 25 years before “the bottle” destroyed him.

“It cost me my practice, my wife and all but one of my children,” he told me. “My middle son helps me manage things and got me into rehab twice but it only works for a short time. He takes me to lunch every Wednesday. Hey, do you think I could get another helping of eggs and sausage?” I said I thought so and went off to see about getting him a second serving.

Photo by Rob Schulz on Unsplash

When I returned with a generous helping of eggs and sausage (this time wrapped in aluminum foil!), I asked if Harold attended church there at St Jude’s. He got quiet for a few seconds and slightly emotional.

I asked if Harold attended church there at St Jude’s. He got quiet for a few seconds and slightly emotional.

He then slid his chair back, pointed to his old clothing and said, “I don’t have any “church clothes.’”

As a child growing up in the coal regions with limited resources I knew immediately what he was talking about. I had one set of “Sunday” clothes, complete with a bowtie that was never worn on any other day of the week.

I responded, “I can’t be sure, but I don’t see the God I’m getting to know caring about what folks wear to church.”

Again, Harold was silent. Finally he whispered, “But the people certainly do.”

Before I could respond, he added, “I know because I was one of those folks who used to care about clothing.”

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

I would have liked to have argued with him, to tell him no one cared what he wore, but I knew I couldn’t. People, even in church—and I hated to admit it, maybe especially in church—do sometimes seem to care more about clothes than the people inside them. I’d experienced it myself. I once dressed up as a homeless person for a guest preaching gig at a large suburban church and had felt firsthand the sidelong glances and how people would avoid meeting my eyes or sitting near me. Only a couple of people approached me or welcomed me to the church—a far different reaction than I got when I visited in my usual attire.

That brief encounter with Harold left me with a lot to think about. On the way home, I asked myself why I normally dress up for church if I really believe what I told Harold, that God doesn’t care what we wear to church. To me, none of the answers I came up with outweighed the unintentional harm it might cause by making others feel inadequate and uncomfortable in what is supposed to be God’s house. Ever since that experience, I seldom dress up for church anymore—not because I don’t honor God, but because I do.




  1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were visibly “out of place,” perhaps not wearing the ‘right’ clothes or being a different gender, race, age, or other category than everyone else? How did you feel?
  2. How have you been treated when you were the “outsider”? What specific actions made you feel excluded? Did anyone go out of their way to make you feel included and if so, how did that make you feel? If you were not made to feel included, how do you wish someone would have reached out to you?
  3. When you see an outsider, do you make an effort to make them feel comfortable or do you expect “someone else”—possibly someone more extraverted or with greater social skills—to do this? What are some specific ways you can reach out more?
  4. Does the amount of money someone has affect your estimation of them, even if you don’t want it to? Do you find yourself giving more weight to their opinions and affording them an extra measure of respect? Do high-income, high-status folks seem to have just a little more worth and value compared to people of limited means? How can you combat this tendency?
  5. Do you think visitors to church—particularly visitors that are “different” in some way from most of the congregation—feel more acceptance and less judgment there than they do in society at large? Why or why not?
  6. If you are part of a faith community, when a visitor shows up in your church, how many members go out of their way to greet them and actually start a conversation? Does your church have an official hospitality ministry? Does having designated “greeters” take the responsibility off the rest of the congregation to welcome visitors?
  7. Do you think “dressing up” is a barrier that might prevent newcomers from feeling comfortable attending your church (if you have one)? What about being familiar with the liturgy? Identify one thing your faith community could change that would make it more comfortable for a visitor. Are you willing to take that concern to the pastor or lay leadership and work to make a change?



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Daniel Maslanik
Daniel Maslanik
November 1, 2019 6:58 pm

Hi Terry, Hope is all well with you & Rita. Thanks for the inspiring thoughts. I never miss one of your stories.

November 1, 2019 10:57 pm


November 2, 2019 1:41 pm

Thank you for another thoughtful and inspiring blog. I’ve had just this conversation within our Sunday school a few years back. I guess, no, I know we are chiefly a product of our youth. And like you I had 1 sport jacket and tie for Sunday’s only and was brought up with the caveat “if God came to your door wouldn’t you want to be dressed in your Sunday best-well we’re going to God’s house so dress up”. Guess it’s been a part of me for all the 60 +years, though I no longer wear a tie or jacket. Sometimes… Read more »