“I won’t stop.”
Good Samaritan Norma Thornton’s defiant promise to never stop feeding the poor really touched my heart 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 preventing her from feeding the homeless at a local park – an activity she did almost daily before being arrested in march for breaking the rule.
Yes, you read that right: Mrs. Thornton was arrested for feeding the poor.
Much of the media attention has been on his brief detention and legal battle, but with the holiday season approaching, I feel compelled to focus on something more pressing: the lessons we need to learn from this remarkable woman.
First, selflessness is one of the most powerful manifestations of our faith. Mrs Thornton gets up five days a week and prepares meals before loading up her car, hauling piles of food, settling in for the poor and homeless and serving dozens of people in need.
She doesn’t do it for accolades or praise, but because she is a Christian driven by her deep, biblical love for God and others.
“The number one motivation is my savior, Jesus Christ, and his father,” she told me. “We are repeatedly told that the first and most important commandment is love.”
She’s obviously perfect, though too many of us forget that in a world driven by hate, anger, and self-obsession. As a near octogenarian, she could do a lot of her time, but she chooses to spend it serving “the least of them”.
It’s both inspiring and compelling, as we reflect on what we too should be doing for others.
The second lesson that Mrs. Thornton’s story teaches us: prayer matters. Not only has she pledged to continue feeding the poor, but she also confidently proclaimed why she knows her critics and those announcing the city ordinance are “wrong” and she is “right.”
When doubts creep in, Ms Thornton says she prays intensely for guidance on what to do, explaining how God then sends other good Samaritans to help her with the needs of her ministry.
“Every time I’m in doubt, something happens… suddenly there’s a box of food or a bag of food or whatever I need,” she said. said. “Blankets arrived here at my doorstep just a few days ago. The temperature has come down nicely [and] many people were very cold.
Through prayer, Mrs. Thornton discerns not only her mission, but also the confidence she needs to carry on – even when it seems insurmountable. She is currently feeding homeless people from a private lane while she awaits the results of her legal battle.
And that brings us to the third and final lesson: we are 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 took the lead in confronting her local government.
Rather than walking away in fear and trepidation, this caring grandmother is sticking to her laurels and fighting to reopen the park to her so she can continue to feed the homeless every day.
Ms. Thornton is so committed to serving others that she wants to make sure the homeless and poor can eat her food with dignity. Currently, she serves them in a dirt alley, where there is no water to wash hands before eating and no toilets.
And it bothers her. She thinks it’s “dehumanizing” for them to sit on the ground while they eat, and she misses the benches and amenities she could provide inside the park.
It’s just a small lens on how much Mrs. Thornton cares. And she’s willing to brave negative attention and chaos because of that love for others — a remarkable battle for an older woman whose peers are surely taking up less chaotic pursuits at this phase of their lives.
Ms. Thornton doesn’t just run the race well; she picks up the pace and sprints. It is awe-inspiring, inspiring, and a compelling call for each of us to ask ourselves: what should we sacrifice for others?
As we celebrate the holidays and reflect on where we are, what we have, and what really matters, let’s reflect on Ms. Thornton’s powerful examples of selflessness, prayer, and resilience in the face of hardship.
• Billy Hallowell is a digital television host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and 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 previously Director of Content and Communications at Pure Flix and former Faith and Culture Editor at TheBlaze.