“Can I just close the book on this day now? I got to sleep in this morning. Then I worshiped at St Paul’s and got to hear the holy most Dr. John Kinney preach. I got to say “Hi” to a dear Rector, an Episcopal Priest, and a good Baptist pastor friend. Dr. Kinney called me his sister and I was filled because He moved a rock for me. (reference to his sermon) I spent a prayerful journey walking around Richmond with my camera, searching for ‘signs.’ Duke won their game and now I am at the Bottom of the Up, reading on a beautiful day. Can I just bottle this up and go to sleep?”
That was the status I put on Facebook around 3:15 Friday afternoon. I was content with the day I had and ready to close it all up and put it in my pocket. It had been a great day, inside and out. I didn’t want anything to ruin the spirit, the life, and the light of what I had experienced.
I finished watching the Duke game and got an order of breadsticks for my roommates. I
decided to go for a cup of coffee at Shockoe Espresso and do some writing. It had been a great day and I needed to write it down. The red light at Cary and 14th stopped me as I searched for a parking space. I noticed a woman standing there asking for help. It’s not surprising to see folks in downtown Richmond standing at the intersections. It’s been a tough time and folks are asking for any assistance possible. Who am I kidding? It’s always been tough for a lot of people in Richmond and today was no exception. I wish life weren’t so hard, but every single day we remember that it is. Whether it’s temporary or terribly permanent, God’s people are hungry, cold, and suffering. This woman was no exception.
When I can help, I normally don’t like to give cash. I would rather give something more tangible like a gift card for food or coffee or even a meal itself. However on this day, I quickly grabbed the few dollars I had, rolled down my window, and offered it to her. I’ve learned over time that it’s not my business what people will do with the money. You give what you can and leave the rest of it up to God and the recipient. The woman was gracious and thanked me for the gift.
She was dressed in yellow fleece, a denim coat, a pair of jeans and her cardboard sign. A wrapped scarf protected her head but nothing protected her hands. Yes, it was the second day of spring, but she was standing in the shade and it was a rather breezy and cool March afternoon. There was a bucket in front of her that I imagine was a temporary place for her to rest. I asked for her name. “Pat,” she said and she gave me God’s blessing as she asked for my name. I said I would pray for her and she offered to do the same for me. The light turned green and we said goodbye with “Have a blessed day” trailing behind. Something kept pulling at me though. I looked in my passenger seat and there was the carryout box with the freshly baked breadsticks and sauce. I could give her more than just money I thought. I could give her a meal. It’s not much, but it was something more than a few dollars.
I rode around the block and found a space by the coffee shop, grabbed the box of breadsticks and headed down the street to see Pat. After I greeted her she exclaimed, “Linda, what are you doing here?” I offered her the still warm breadsticks. Pat was so grateful for the gift and pointed to a sub sandwich that someone had left for her earlier. We talked for a few minutes about the weather. Then I asked how she was doing and if she would be protected from the cold weather this weekend. Times are a little rough she said but assured me she had a place to stay. Pat was looking for some money to get kerosene for the week. We both wished the weather would cooperate as the calendar told us it was spring. Maybe she wouldn’t need too much more of the kerosene. We laughed about God’s sense of humor in the temperatures and she complimented my beautiful smile. I couldn’t help but think that it was a smile I hadn’t seen in a while and was glad I was able to share it with her. More importantly, she shared her smile with me. We laughed together at God’s gentle breeze that was bringing cooler temperatures.
Then her spirit became clear.
“We do what we can and let God take care of the rest,” she reminded me. Yes Pat, you are right. You are absolutely right. We do what we can and let God take care of the rest. Pat reached out and gave me a hug. It was her sweet and gracious thank you for the meal and conversation. Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting. As she held me, Pat started to pray out loud. She prayed to Jesus and asked Him to watch over me as He had watched over her with this day and meal. She thanked Jesus for my presence in her life today. She thanked God. She thanked God – for me. After we embraced Pat said, “I’ve never done that before, prayed out loud. I just felt led to. I’m sorry.” It took all I had not to cry, “No, Pat. Don’t apologize. I’m glad you prayed. You have blessed me today.”
We said our goodbyes and thanksgivings. I went back to my car and she continued to do what she needed to make it through the day and night. On my way home, I couldn’t help but think about my wanting to bottle up my earlier experience and end the day. Good thing I didn’t. Look at what I would have missed.
I updated my Facebook status when I got home: “Well, I was wrong on wanting to close the book on today. God had other moments for me to encounter and to keep finding Him in just the right places. Wow. Humbled and grateful.”
(Edited by Jim Somerville because I took the text back from his blog. 🙂 )