Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Three peppermints and a gift card

     Today started out like any other day...a mad scramble to get out the door for art class because let's face it, kids move in stop-motion when you want them to hustle, only to discover upon arrival that I had the time wrong. Days like this seem to happen to me more than most moms I know the email was legit WRONG. I even asked another friend when she thought it would have started. So there. It was an honest mistake but I seem to make those a lot. Doesn't really help my already ridiculously low self-esteem as a functioning human. With hot tears streaming down my face and a mad little boy yelling, "this place is ridiculous!!" (I'm not sure where he heard that word) at the church which holds the class, I trudged back to the car. Yes, I trudged. I'm trudging everywhere it seems these days. There's been no spring in my step for a while. It COULD be because of the RIDICULOUS cold that has produced ZERO snow or ice of any consequence, and has forced me to wear UGGs for an entire 4 month period. My toes and feet are begging for sandals and pretty nail polish. My legs are pleading to not have jeans on them, yet were I to release them to wear shorts they would blind anyone standing within a 5 mile radius. Yes. I need a tan. In a bad way. But THIS day wasn't to be about art or UGGs. It was to be about awakening. Awakening my spirit to The Spirit. Awakening my heart to listen and obey His heart. Awakening my trudging soul and finding joy in blessing others..and receiving massive blessing in return.
     I decided to calm my tiny tyrants with a trip to Chick-Fil-A. The promise of playground time and chicken nuggets lightened the mood and we were off to see the chicken. As we pulled in I noticed a bicycle, laden with rolled up bundles and knew instantly that it most likely was the entirety of one person's worldly possessions. I wondered who we would encounter and what the other diners would think of this person being in Chick Fil A in the heart of East Memphis. It's been a long time since I've lived here, but sure as I live and breathe, I don't remember ever seeing this happen. Sure enough, we walked into the store and there he was. Sitting with his ball cap pulled way down over his eyes, crouched over a newspaper reading dozing in and out of sleep. Other people came and went around him, either giving him no glance at all or quickly looking away. It was as if the Lord said to me, "you're gonna talk to that man. AND you're gonna give him a gift". I was all "WHO, me?? Seriously, God...ME??". I instantly thought of a story Beth Moore told of the Lord telling her to brush a man's hair  that looked like it hadn't been washed, let alone brushed, in a very long time. She was obedient. This was my chance to be obedient and to allow the Spirit to awaken my soul again. Deep breath...
     I decided to get him a gift card. That's easy enough, right? Step one, done. I sat back in my seat and could hear all the conversations around me. Listen, if you don't want people to hear what you're saying...don't talk loud. I grew increasingly more agitated and annoyed with the conversations around me. I knew what I was supposed to do but my legs wouldn't do it. Another deep breath...
    I suddenly felt myself rising up from my seat in the booth that had kept me safe from stares and whisperings that I knew would occur. They were taking me to this man. I'm standing there and there's no turning back. Step two...speak. I hear myself saying "My name is Theryssa and God told me I'm to give you a gift. May I sit down?". My heart was beating so fast I could hardly breathe...if you know me but at all, you know I get terrible stage fright. This felt like I was standing on a stage on Broadway, completely unaware of what my next line was and everyone was watching. Here in this Chick-Fil-A...people were watching and I could feel it. He told me his name and said I could sit. We engaged in light small talk and of course church came up. He was quite certain that I was on some kind of mission to give to the needy. I assured him I was not and we changed the subject. Deep breath...
     The more we chatted, the more I began to enjoy his company and he warmed up to me. I didn't ask too many questions (it has been pointed out that I do that. I thought people liked it when others were interested in them! No?) but he was willing to answer the ones I did ask. He had a cold and said he'd been taking peppermints because it was really good for colds. This launched us into essential oils and movies in which essential oils are used. Um, yeah. That happened. We talked about food and movies and his family. We talked about his life and (kind of) how he got in the position he's in now. He was terribly witty and very smart. An hour later, I gave him the gift card and said, "I'm hungry, let's eat!" and just like that, we were enjoying a meal together...with my kids. Yeah, I included my kids. They didn't miss a beat. Oh, I just realized I haven't told you what our new friend looks like. He's most likely in his 70's but I don't know for sure. He had sparkly blue eyes that lit up when he talked of his daughters in Florida and gray hair that stuck out from under his tattered ball cap. He was wearing at least 3 layers of clothing and his hands were calloused and cut from years of cold and hard work. I feel I should note that the Chick-Fil-A staff was nothing but gracious to us both as we sat and talked. I never felt like they wanted him out and found out AFTER the fact that he came there quite often and sat. I'm not sure I would have done this if I had known that so I'm glad I didn't.
     When it came time to eat, I sat Kate catty-cornered to our new friend (yes, I know his name, no, I'm not going to share it) because I knew she wouldn't talk to him anyway. Let's be real honest, Kate doesn't talk to very many people. Samuel on the other hand was more than excited to chat up this new person in his world. Samuel talked of basketball and soccer and our friend told him the story of Samuel in the Bible. The kids finished eating and went back to play in the germ incubator playground. Another hour went by. Sometimes we talked. Sometimes we didn't. It felt like sitting with an old friend. I have to say, I haven't enjoyed conversation like this with a perfect stranger in a very long time. He was interested in our church and mentioned that he knew a guy there.He's got a few connections around town with men from other churches so I feel relieved knowing that he can get help in an emergency. But it's so very cold and I have NO idea where he sleeps or lives. This makes my heart sad.
     As the afternoon went on, I knew we had to leave, but I didn't want to go. Is that weird? I just met this person, but was enjoying talking so much that I couldn't pull myself away. And I knew that once he was gone, that was it. I may not ever know what happens to him. The kids came out of the playground and we prepared to leave. He gathered his belongings and we said our goodbyes. I asked him if we could meet again next week and he said he'd get out to church tomorrow night if the weather wasn't bad. Like a dagger to the heart that was. He rides everywhere. I take for granted just hopping into my fancy SUV and hitting the road. Not anymore. As we were getting ready to go, he handed me a package of Life Saver peppermints. There weren't many inside, three exactly, but he wanted my kids to have them for their sniffles because "an ounce of prevention is half the cure". And he wanted me to make sure I had the package so I could know which ones to get when those were gone. Deep breath...
     We said goodbye to our friend, and I noticed another mom with little girls in ballet uniforms outfits costumes...seriously, what are they called?? We started talking about homeschool dance class and you guessed it...home birth. She brought it up, I promise! She also sees the need for a birth center in town, so that sealed it...I'm gonna get on that soon. ANYWAY, while we were chatting, I glanced out the window and noticed him standing by his bike. I turned again a minute later and he was gone. My heart was sad and I thought, "I don't know if I'll ever see him again. Did I do enough? Did I share enough? Did I love enough?" He had told me as he left, "thank you for the enjoyable time and for spending your day with me. It was a blessing". No, sir. I'm the one who received the blessing.
     The Lord knew today that I would have the wrong time for art and would end up exactly where He placed this man. As I write this, I can barely see the computer screen for the tears of thanksgiving. Today, my heart was awakened again with a love for the homeless. Jeremy and I served in Texas at a church called Beautiful Feet and got to know some of the people who would come to church on the bus. In talking to the men, we realized some wanted help and others didn't. Regardless, it's not up to me to judge why they're homeless or what they do with money people give them. Should we choose not to give cash? Absolutely. But we should also not turn a scornful eye and look the other way. It's super easy to ignore the homeless. But it's even easier to love them if we try.
     So, tonight as I lay down in my incredibly uncomfortable but warm bed, I'll pray for my new friend. Pray that he has somewhere warm to sleep tonight. Pray that he is safe. Pray that we see him again. I thank God for our meeting today. He walked away with a gift card to Chick-Fil-A but I walked away with a renewed heart for others...and three peppermints.

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