So, ya, I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk? Actually doing the things that help create that small town vibe, extending God’s love with abandon…where you go out of your way to know your neighbors and the needs around you?! Well, if you take one day last week as the only sample in answering this question, then the answer would be a BIG FAT NO! 😦
I decided to get an early start on one of my first days at my new job and decided to coffee splurge at Starbucks. (Aaaaaaahhhh…Starbucks! This is a special treat for me!) The sun was shining; it was a bright, clear day. It was chilly, but you could see the sunshine warming the faces of the people who were sitting outside with their coffee treats. When I entered the store, it felt as though the place was buzzing with positivity. For me, the mere act of getting my morning coffee seems to say, ‘ok, this is going to be a good day.’ Everyone in there just seemed so happy and chipper, which put me in a good mood and excited for my day as well.
After I made my way through the line and ordered my vente non-fat latte with 4 raw sugars (in case anyone wants to surprise me with one! 😉 ) I took a spot by the window and leaned against the counter top while I waited with anticipation for my order to be announced as ready. I took this time, as I often do, to scope out the room and do a little people watching. As I scanned, I came across a visual in stark contrast to the rest of the room who were all dressed in North Face jackets, new, shiny purses, and Sorel boots. She sat just across from me in a chair, snoozing, while guarding her cart piled with plastic shopping bags, probably filled with indispensable life essentials. She wore an old, over sized, army green winter coat, a tattered wool hat and gloves with a couple of the fingers missing. While the whole room flitted around her in an excited buzz, she calmly slept , oblivious to all the commotion around her.
My heart started beating faster as I tried to think of what I should do to help her out in some way. On the table next to her, I noticed there was Starbucks nothing. There was a styrofoam plate, an empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup and a crumpled up napkin. I’m just guessing, but I think she just went in there for the nap…I assumed. So, I started thinking of ideas. Should I buy her a Starbucks gift card and just leave it next to her by her pile of trash? But, would she see it? Would she know it was for her? I thought about buying a pastry or something and leaving it on her plate. But what if that wasn’t actually her plate afterall? What if she didn’t gather her trash to see it before she left? There was a man sitting across her reading a newspaper who looked like he was planning on being there for a while. Should I buy the gift card and ask this guy to give it to her when she woke up? But what if he wanted to leave before she woke up? Or would this guy even make sure she got it at all? Or was that asking too much of a complete stranger?
As these possibilities and ‘what ifs’ swirled through my brain, my order was called. I almost forgot I was waiting for the coffee and it caught me by surprise. It was go time. What was I to do? How was I going to use my resources to help a neighbor, right in my midsts? Answer: NOTHING! I took my $900 latte and left!!! I figured none of the possible solutions were suitable and hoped I might see her there again some time.
I was not satisfied with my non-solution after coming face to face with someone in real need. So, you might think that when I got a second chance later that day, I might have done something differently to actually help in some small way. You would be wrong!…Unfortunatley!
A short while after arriving to work, my new boss and close friend, Gina, asked if I would run down to CVS to get a few things for the restaurant. Since I’m always happy to experience running an errand without the 10 minute unbuckling, gathering of supply’s, pep talk to the wee ones routine, I said of course!
Once I arrived for my errand, I quickly located the things I needed and headed to check out. I took my place behind a woman who was waiting behind a pile of stuff, while leaving space for an imaginary person. She was looking around expectantly, so I joined in on the looking around game, trying to spot the person we were waiting for.
From directly behind me, I heard the raspiest, roughest, most strained voice I’d heard since my Papa Jack was alive. (My mom’s dad) Papa Jack had surgery on his throat from cancer and too many cigars; he never sounded the same again. I turned around, following the sound, to see a miniature elderly woman hobbling down the isle. She had on those Adidas athletic slide in sandals with no socks despite the 40 degrees outside, pajama pants with a giant ripped hole in front and the side revealing her entire undergarment, and a zip up hoodie. As she teetered toward the register, it was obvious there something wrong with her foot or a leg or a hip as she lobbed from side to side, purposefully switching her body weight as she went. “Do I have enough?” She tried to hollar, but a hollow scratchy whisper floated into the air instead, barely reaching the distance she intended. I looked back to the register to see the pile of items accompanied by a crumbled pile of dollars as well. She went as fast as she could through the stares from most of the people waiting to purchase their selections. When she reached the woman behind the register, she repeated her question. “Do I have enough?” As she added more to the pile. The clerk said, “No, I’m sorry, you don’t have enough money here.” The poor woman started going through her essentials which included things like, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, nail polish remover, putting aside the things she thought she could do without.
My heart is breaking telling you this, and I’m sure you probably guessed, that I, again, did NOTHING! The possibilities of what I could do, again, swirled through my head as I weighed each one, against stepping up in this crowd that had now gathered waiting for their turns. I worried if she even wanted the help or not and how stupid I would feel if I offered to pay and she told me she didn’t need any charity or shut me down in some way. (I feel stupid for sure now!) I let the opportunity slide right by. It happened so fast in slow motion. I should have just stepped up, added my things to her pile, and said, “I’d like to take care of this.” But I didn’t.
As Ellen DeGeneres says…and DOES btw:
“I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
I do too Ellen!!!…Believe it or not!
Now, I know the kind of help I could have given would not be life changing for them and in no way would have had a real affect on their current situation…but it would have been something!! A gesture, a small boost, an example, showing that someone saw them and cared. God could have put these people in my path on purpose or they could have been there just by pure circumstance. Either way, it was a complete FAIL. I totally blew an opportunity to show God’s love through my actions. Acts 20-:35 says, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
What will I do the next time I’m presented opportunities like these? Will I act and just be kind, helping someone in need? Or will I back down from the blessing of giving? I pray this day will be on automatic recall and serve as a force of motion, reminding me to act in love first…think later.
Til’ next time, be blessed!
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