It is Thursday morning and I am still thinking about affluence being everywhere. I’m drowning in it actually, I still can’t get it off my mind at all, and I’m having thoughts that are breaking me over and over again.
Today is the first day of my daughter’s gymnastics lessons and she puts on her one-piece black with shiny pink hearts gymnastics outfit first thing in the morning. She asks me every 20 minutes when we are leaving for her class (just hers!) and her vibrant excitement is so contagious and I think some thankful prayers for her and her joyful anticipation.
Her class isn’t until the afternoon and we go and she loves it. She answers the teacher that having no listening ears would mean no stamps on their hands and feet after class, even though removing rewards isn’t how we do things at home, she gets it, without ever having experienced it before. I’m smiling at her when she skips over after class ends (two stamps for two listening ears, for those concerned) proud of herself for her first solo class. I am proud too. I ask her, what was her favourite part and she answers the trampoline. I knew it would be, she spends hours on the one we have in the yard.
My favourite part was watching all the little girls, in their gym gear, trying to copy the teacher, just living in the moment so naturally. Being present is just their default state.
But, as for me, it isn’t, and I am still wondering if this is good, if this is okay, when somewhere else this money spent on my little love could save someone else’s little love’s life. Give them real food today. Rescue them from sexual slavery today. It is this I am thinking of when we drive away. My brain and heart are stuck on repeat.
I still don’t know.
I need to stop for gas, so we pull up to a convince store and as I am coasting to the pump, I see him. He is older, maybe in his late 60’s, with a white hair and white beard and too many clothes on for the warm fall day. I know he is homeless and I feel the stirrings of something about to happen in my chest.
I am wondering if he will come over and talk to me and I look at him as I unbuckle my seat belt (often if people are asking for money they won’t ask mom’s with children). He doesn’t make eye contact. But I open my door and he comes close to my car, he is standing too close, something altering his need for personal space. He asks me if I have any change. I say no I don’t (I don’t) and he says maybe on the way out? I say I am paying with debit but could I get him anything.
Milk. He asks me for a bottle of milk.
I ask if he wants chocolate or anything else, and he says no, he would just like white. I nod in agreement and pump my gas. A man pulling away in his pickup truck stops, rolls down his window and asks if he was harassing me and I say, no, thank you for being concerned for my well-being, he was just asking a question. I unbuckle all my kiddos and we head in to pay. The oldest two get a slurpee and alongside the milk, I add a container of strawberries and a sandwich.
I ask for a bag and hand it to him on the way back to my car. He scurries around the corner after a quick, thanks, miss, and as I pull out I see him on the bus bench around the corner digging in to his gas station fare.
My kids are full of questions about who that man was and why did I give him that bag of food. I explain he probably doesn’t have a home, they ask where he lives and I say maybe a shelter, or under a bridge. Liam says maybe in a car and I agree maybe. Liam says ‘Mom we don’t often see people who are hungry around here.’ He’s too right.
‘You did the right thing mom’ Liam says quickly and repeats himself, really sure. I am jealous of his ability to see things so quickly and easily.
You see there is so much tied up in this story for me. Where we live (out in the country) but also the suburb closest to us, aren’t places where homeless live. I have never ran into a situation like this close to my home before, so to have it happen, just this day.
Crazy as it is, I feel this was a gift to me and I am whispering thank you to God. You see, I feel I have been shown how I’ve changed. In this province Alberta, a have province, if ever there was one, with seemingly abundant jobs, lazy is perhaps the worst four letter word. Just over a handful of years ago, I would have hoped any homeless person wouldn’t talk to me, thinking that they should get a job, or go to a soup kitchen or they are only asking for money to fuel addictions. (Milk.) I didn’t know any really poor people, (not in the way when we first got married we had to watch every penny poor, but running out of food poor) not even one. I wouldn’t have worried two seconds about money spent here or there, as long as we had it to spend. I felt free and clear to continue upward mobility indefinitely.
But I met this Jesus, Jesus of the gospels, in a new way these past years and I learned to at least smile and look everyone in the eye, housed or homeless, after all Jesus would have. I’ve been praying on and off for several years to give me a heart like his, and let me tell you, it’s scary because this is a prayer that God likes to answer.
And by being able to gift this man a gas station lunch, I’ve had communion. I’ve been reminded of God’s wild grace that frankly, I don’t even come close to understanding. But I do know he loves us all, and longs to be close to us, and this I do believe (most days.)
And when I dwell on my life of abundance, it isn’t because I worry about what will happen to me in a life after death type way if I sit here with all my riches, while other’s go without. I know God loves me. I know I don’t have to do a single thing to earn that love, it is all grace, crazy grace.
It’s because I worry my heart is too hard, too selfish, too afraid, to fully live. As I get to know Jesus better, I wonder how I can’t do more, knowing what I know, knowing how he loves, living in that love. It’s because every time I feel moved by the Jesus I know, it has been oh so good for me too. Perceived sacrifice turns into blessing, each and every time.
I’m talking all of this over with God as I am driving home, with a full tank. He says one step at a time Leah, it’s how we have gotten here, to this, to today. (And please know it isn’t me at all, it is only knowing Jesus. I am all very okay with upward mobility left to my own devices.) Taking all these small steps with me is how you have changed at all. So I agree to the next step. I am still scared because I have an idea what it is. God promises we’ll do it together. And that it will be good. And my heart feels freed all over again.