There is a homeless family living in their suburban around the corner from our house. A middle-aged woman and three little girls have been camping out for a week, perhaps, in this forlorn blue boat of a car. I only noticed them because one of the long side windows has been replaced by a black garbage bag and duct tape. I only talked to them because I accidentally parked next to them the night before. The thought that I should move my car closer to the house had struck me, but I was so tired and lazy that I left it on the side street.
So when I walk by this suburban with an aching back, bad attitude, backpack, and file box of teaching materials, all I am focusing on is my pain and irritation. But then I see a little girl with blondish curly hair sitting on the curb by the open front door, and I hear a baby crying. The sight of that kid on the curb stops my internal bitch fest, and I shove my box and bag in the cab of my truck and turn around to see her nonchalantly sizing me up, ignoring the crying from inside. Split-second thoughts slow me down – do I just drive away? What could I give them? Is it any of my business? What are the pros and cons?
Enough with the questions. I pull out my plastic lunch bag holding a banana, peanut butter, and grapefruit and turn to the little girl. “Do you want some fruit?” I ask her, and she turns to the woman in the driver’s seat. The woman has the weathered face of someone whose heart is full of love and pain. No one would call her beautiful, perhaps, but she is. I thought she would refuse or take offense, but she nods vigorously and thanks me. It is the kind of thank you that greeting cards cannot replicate – the kind of thank you that means more than anything I could give.
Getting into my truck and turning the key, I feel so grateful and so foolish and so blessed to have had a moment to see my own problems in perspective. I was griping about falling short of my target $2000 this month and not being able to afford a car with air conditioning. I feel the pain in my back and see the woman’s swollen ankles in shabby sneakers. I drive around the corner and go back inside our house, asking my partner what we can give them. Without hesitation she finds a reusable shopping bag and starts filling it with whatever non-perishables she can find and I drive back to them with the bag. Another thank you from the beautiful, weary woman and her beautiful little girls, like birds’ voices. Another reminder that there was still so much in the house that we were not giving and that we could stand to replace all of it.
I thank God for moments of laziness He turns into unexpected meetings, like leaving a truck parked on a side street. I thank Him that He lets me glimpse His love through the people who have nothing. I thank Him that He shows me all my gifts are small compared to the overwhelming need, that even small gifts are blessings, and that there is so much more to give. God teaches me that beauty is not fashion or physique, but a heart looking out from thankful eyes. He teaches me that He can use everything I bring to Him, and that He leaves a gift of joy in the place of what is given. I thank Him for the family around the corner, for they challenge my faith and show me grace.