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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

OPINION:

“I will not stop.”

Good Samaritan Norma Thornton‘s defiant pledge to never stop feeding the poor truly tugged at my heartstrings when we recently sat down to discuss her shocking ordeal.


The 78-year-old grandmother, whose kindness is fueled by her faith, is suing Bullhead City, Arizona, over a local ordinance precluding her from feeding the homeless at a local park — an activity she engaged in nearly daily before being arrested in March for violating the rule.

Yes, you read that correctly: Ms. Thornton was arrested for feeding the poor.

Much of the media focus has been on her brief detainment and legal battle, but with the holiday season upon us, I feel compelled to concentrate on something else more pressing: the lessons we must take away from this remarkable woman.

First, selflessness is one of the most powerful manifestations of our faith. Ms. Thornton gets up five days a week and prepares meals before loading up her car, transporting mounds of food, setting up for poor and homeless individuals, and serving dozens of people in need.

She doesn’t do it for accolades or praise but because she is a Christian motivated by her deep and biblical love for God and others.

“The No. 1 motivation is my savior, Jesus Christ, and his father,” she told me. “We are told repeatedly, the first and most foremost commandment is love.”

She is obviously spot on, though too many of us forget this in a world driven by hate, anger and obsession with the self. As a near-octogenarian, there’s plenty she could be doing with her time, yet she’s choosing to spend it serving the “least of these.”

It’s simultaneously inspiring and convicting, as we ponder what we, too, should be doing for others.

The second lesson Ms. Thornton‘s story teaches us: prayer matters. Not only did she pledge to keep feeding the poor but she also confidently proclaimed why she knows her critics and those trumpeting the city ordinance “are wrong” and that she‘s “right.”

When doubts creep in, Ms. Thornton said she intensely prays for guidance about what to do, explaining how God then sends other good Samaritans along to help meet her ministry needs.

“Every time I’m in doubt, something happens … suddenly there’s a box of food or a bag of food or whatever it is I need,” shesaid. “Blankets showed up here at my doorstep just a few days ago. The temperature dropped quite a bit [and] many of the people were very cold.”

Through prayer, Ms. Thornton discerns not only her mission but also the confidence she needs to carry on — even when it seems insurmountable. She‘s currently feeding the homeless out of a private alleyway as she awaits the results of her legal battle.

And that brings us to the third and final lesson: we’re called to run the race well. Ms. Thornton could have thrown in the towel or cowered in fear after her arrest. Instead, she continued her ministry, braved new challenges and stepped up to the plate to take on her local government.

Rather than slither away in dread and trepidation, this caring grandmother is sticking to her laurels and fighting to open the park back up to her so she can continue feeding the homeless.

Ms. Thornton is so fixated on serving others that she wants to ensure the homeless and poor can eat her food with dignity. Currently, she‘s serving them in a dirt alleyway, where there’s no water to wash their hands before they eat and no restrooms.

And that bothers her. She believes it’s dehumanizing for them to sit on the ground as they eat, and she misses the benches and amenities she could make available to them inside the park.

That’s just a small lens into how much Ms. Thornton cares. And she‘s willing to brave negative attention and chaos because of that love for others — a remarkable battle for a woman whose peers are surely taking on less chaotic activities at this phase in their lives.

Ms. Thornton isn’t just running the race well; she‘s picking up the pace and sprinting. It’s impressive, inspiring and a convicting call for each of us to ask: What should we be sacrificing for others?

As we celebrate the holidays and ponder where we are, what we have and what truly matters, let’s reflect on Ms. Thornton‘s powerful examples of selflessness, prayer and standing up amid difficulty.

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Hallowell is the author of four books, including “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.” He was formerly the director of content and communications at Pure Flix and the former faith and culture editor at TheBlaze.


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