It was a busy day. I picked up my two younger kids thirty minutes before my third. I’m a self-proclaimed multi-tasker and thought I had plenty of time to run a couple of errands. I stopped to get gas in my van and as I pumped, I shook my head at the huge tent the local grocery store had erected in the middle of the parking lot for Valentine’s Day. I could see a sea of red and pink from the pump.
I pulled to the corner and that’s when I saw the sign. I have seen homeless people near downtown panhandling, but this was a young couple holding a cardboard sign and bundled baby, both being blown by the February wind. My son, in the passenger’s seat, looked at them and then at me. His eyebrows knit in confusion as he read the sign. “Mom?” his one word held a thousand questions.
Immediately I fumbled for my wallet and rolled the window down. I had $2. I handed it to them and the look of gratitude was immeasurable. I apologized as I slowly pulled away, “I wish I had more.”
But I did have more and as I pulled into the road, I saw my bank next to the gas station. I checked my watch and the closing window of time before I had to pick up my oldest from track practice and I turned around.
“Mom, what are you doing?” my kids asked when I pulled up to the bank.
They were both grinning as if to say I knew we could do better than that.
As I rolled down my window at the ATM, I said, “Okay, how much, y’all?”
And my kids simultaneously said an amount much higher than I had planned.
“Mom, it’s almost Valentine’s.”
My heart leapt at the generosity that comes easily to my kids and I thought of my word for the year. And how this unexpected moment was another opportunity to choose love, the real kind.
I glanced back at the ridiculous tent and remembered reading Americans spend more than 18 million dollars on a made up holiday. The tent was bursting with people who wanted to give love and the family standing just feet away certainly needed it. Oh, irony.
I withdrew money and whipped my car back around.
“This is awesome,” I heard from the backseat.
The couple looked confused at seeing my van again and I tried to communicate with their broken English. I gathered from our limited conversation they had trouble with their Green Card. “We hunger. No money for rent.”
“Where are you from?”
I handed them the wad of money, wondering if I was falling into a trap or breaking some kind of unwritten code. But in the moment, it didn’t matter if they were being honest. Anyone who was in their position (either by luck or choice), needed a little extra love.
I started to pull away and stopped. I called out, “What’s your name? Can I contact you somehow?”
Then I saw tears in her eyes as she shielded her baby from the weather. “You want to help us?” She said slowly.
Oh, yes, I do. And I want my children to know this is what we do. We love others.
The story is still being written, but in the parking lot waiting for my little track star to come off the field, I emailed our dear Russian friends (if you’ve been a long time reader here, you might remember them?) and told them about the family and asked if they knew anyone who spoke Romanian.
Within ten minutes, this precious family was connected to one of the only Romanian Church and Pastor in the Houston area.
At dinner, my kids shared the story with their dad. I smiled and my heart was full, not because we did something good, but because something good happened to us.
“I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew: 25-35-40
Today, Jesus had the face of a young Romanian family.
What will He look like for you?
This week at (in)courage I wrote about how it feels to be held by God.