In my post, Sacrifice is the Heart of Love, I described love as a faithful action, where one puts kindness and the wellbeing of others ahead of oneself. I also explained that it is dutiful, because constancy is what affirms it. I want to apply these principals to my relationship with God. I have every intention to deliver when He calls on me. Even though I’m new at this, I believe I’ve heard the “still small voice” on a few occasions. This post is about the time He asked me to serve a homeless woman, and what I learned from it.
I was in Target’s parking lot loading my purchases into my car. I saw her walking slowly from the back of the lot toward the store’s entrance. I remembered seeing her once before. I recognized her swollen legs – which could be from layers of clothing. She was making slow progress because she was pushing a luggage cart that carried two small suitcases and pet carrier, holding, I think, a cat. Other than recognizing her, I didn’t immediately think much. Then I felt a nudge in my heart to give her the money out of my wallet. My first reaction was to second guess the nudge. Partly because I am uncomfortable approaching homeless people, but mostly because the only cash I had was a $100 bill. Frankly, that seemed like a lot to give a stranger. Even though I felt this was more than a passing thought, I resisted.
Luckily I came quickly to my senses and shut down the rebelling thoughts. I say it’s lucky because I knew I’d feel remorse if I let the opportunity pass. I mean, wasn’t it just last week that I wrote about sacrifice. Generosity and listening to your inner voice are core messages I deliver. So with commitment I pulled that crisp bill from my wallet and held it in my hand as I approached her. Furthermore, since she seemed to walk with a limp, I decided I would also push her cart right up to the store for her. I wore a smile as I neared her and felt gladness that I was doing the right thing.
I said, “Excuse me, but can I help you with that?”
“No thanks. I’ve got it,” she said in reply. Understood, I thought.
“Okay, can I give you a gift,” I replied as I made to hand her the money.
“No, thank you.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, wondering if she misunderstood me.
“Yes, I’m certain,” she said looking me square in the eye.
And that was that. I turned around and walked back to my car. I felt sheepish. What just happened? What the heck just happened?!
I was rattled. I did not expect that. I though for sure I would have a good Samaritan moment. I would carry her belongings to the store for her, easing her burden for that short walk. Then I would smile and giver the $100, with the joy of know I’d done God’s will. So again, what the heck happened?
This question plagued me for the next few hours. I felt keenly that there was a lesson to be had. When I had a quiet moment later that afternoon and was still thinking about it, I received the flash of a memory from 2006. At that time, I was living in a new city without family and with few friends. I felt isolated, but self-sufficient. I was making it on my own. The memory was of an exchange I had with a colleague and friend. He had previously told me he was Christian and one particular day he offered me $50. He explained that some of his friends from church wanted to be generous by giving money to strangers and a few people they knew. I remember feeling indignity when he offered me the money – what made him think I needed or wanted his charity. I specifically remember thinking how annoyingly Christian of him – assuming people wanted his help.
Now how’s that for God having a sense of humor? What an ironic twist. I recognized myself in the homeless woman, and was taught how my pride probably made my friend feel all those years ago. Above all, I was shown how it disrupts God’s work and, undoubtedly, shuts people off from receiving all that they can have.