Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Saw a cardboard sign said “Help this homeless widow”
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
and my own little world reached
- My Own Little World, by Matthew West
Last week, I posted the full lyrics to this song and this morning as I was getting ready for work, those lyrics were running through my head. I was praying that God wouldn't let my heart get distracted from those in need and that reading Radical would impact me in a lasting way that truly showed life change. I prayed that God would help me to be more others-focused and bring me opportunities to show people kindness and love. Boy did He answer!
During this time of year, when the blazing heat of Phoenix begins to cool and the nights are still warm, there are usually homeless people begging on the main intersections and on the freeway ramps. As many of them have addiction problems, I don't like to give them cash but I also don't ever want to turn away from someone who could very well have a legitimate need. So I keep "care packages" in my car - gallon Ziplocks filled with a pair of sock, a comb, a tooth brush and toothpaste, water, some food and a New Testament. I've given out a lot of these over the years, but honestly I don't generally have much personal interaction with the people I hand them out to.
But this morning was different. I was reading Radical. I had the above lyrics stuck in my head. I had ask God to open my eyes to the needs of others. And God was faithful. In this case, just ten minutes after I had prayed for opportunities to love others.
As I got off the freeway, I saw an older lady with her cardboard sign sitting on the side of the road. I switched lanes so that I could give her one of my goodie bags. I rolled down my window but instead of just handing off the bag with a quick, "God bless," and rolling my window back up, I stopped and I looked at her, really looked at her. I then found myself in the middle of an amazing, unexpected interaction.
I handed her the bag and I could see her genuine excitement as she glanced over the contents. "Oh, this is so nice. Oh wow. Oh thank you," she kept saying.
I asked her what her name was and she replied, "Holly."
Without the hesitation that typically laces my interactions with the homeless, I reached out my hand and shook hers, "I'm Jen. It's nice to meet you, Holly."
When I looked Holly in the eye, I saw tears forming and I wondered when the last time she had received a friendly handshake. It made me sad to image my life without that sort of basic human kindness.
"My husband Ted was murdered a few years back," Holly said suddenly, the moisture in her eyes increasing, "and I've been homeless since." She leaned in closer towards my car, "Would you pray for Ted? Would you pray for me?" There was such desperation in her voice, such a need for hope and for someone to care. " I miss him so much, but I know he's dancing with the angels now." She tried to smile, but it was cloaked in sadness.
I placed my hand on Holly's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, "I will pray for you, Holly." And I meant it this time, oh how I meant it.
The tears that had been hovering on her lids began to fall and, clutching the care package close, Holly choked out, "Thank you. Thank you so much." Sensing the traffic light was about to change, she started to back away from my car, trying to mouth "Thank you" once more through her tears. She smiled a little and a sob escaped as she turned her cardboard sign around. On the backside, it read, "SMILE."
The light changed to green and I drove away from Holly, holding back sobs of my own. It was then that I realize how specifically God had answered my morning prayer. Not only had He put someone in my path that needed kindness, He had brought me to a homeless widow. Exactly like the song I had been singing just a few moments before.
I am so grateful that God used me to bless Holly this morning. I am such a messy pile of selfish human and that He used me as a tool for His glory is incredibly humbling. I feel unworthy. I am unworthy! It never ceases to amaze me that God chooses to bless those in need through the love and action of His Church. It is such an honor to be the hands and feet of Christ and yet I neglect that privilege so often. It is a privilege and I want to make the most of it.
"I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself."
- I Refuse, by Josh Wilson