Recently, I ran errands — checking off my long to-do list. Fifth stop. Pick up antibiotics for my son. Ear infections hurt. My next stop — pick him up at track practice. I’m running early. Got time to spare. Relax. Wouldn’t that be nice? Stop complaining, Helo! Perhaps I should make a coffee stop.
But just as I was about to get in my car, I noticed a disheveled woman, clothes tattered, sitting outside on the concrete ground against the wall of the drugstore. Looked like she hadn’t showered for several weeks. All of her belongings crowded a dirty pull cart. Plastic bags, remnants of food, and a dirty yellow shirt splashing out.
We’ve all seen carts like this one. Sometimes we stop. Sometimes we pretend we can’t see it or don’t want to.
I could have driven off, but felt moved to change my mind. I got out of the car with a fresh bottle of water, granola bar, and hidden copy of Halo Found Hope. I sat down next to her on the cold concrete.
She smiled, revealing broken and missing teeth. “Why are you sitting here with me?”
“I’ve got time — I need a break — and thought I’d join you while you are taking yours.”
I handed her that granola bar and the bottle of water. I began to munch on my own bar. Now we were talking and eating.
“Thank you so much,” she remarked. “Most people look at me and keep going — like I’m not even here. I don’t think anyone wants to know me.”
A frown and sorrow crowded her face.
Looking her right in the eyes, I remarked, “I’m sorry. People shouldn’t do that. You are loved, you know?”
A twinkle. A smile. Belief expressed.
“Yes, I know God loves me. I just don’t understand how I ended up this way.”
I didn’t ask her how she got to this place — homeless, I gathered. I thought to myself, Father, why do some people end up this way? Help me love this child.
Up until this point, I hadn’t mentioned God. Yet, this tender lady brought up our Comforter. Authentically unashamed. Knowing who He is.
“Do you like to pray?” I questioned.
“Yep. But I’m not sure if He listens. I’m not sure if I say the right words.”
“Praying is talking. Just talk to Him. He already knows what you are going to say or ask.”
“You make it sound so simple,” she snickered.
“Yeah, isn’t God is awesome? He understands us like no one else can.”
We closed our eyes, held hands, and talked with God. She couldn’t stop telling me how thankful she was that I took the time to visit.
I told her how thankful I was that she took time to spend with me. See, she blessed me. She made me realize that the things I complain about, or take for granted at times I need to set aside. Complaining is contagious — but so is the opposite, including appreciation and gratitude. And serving others.
God reminded me that focusing on the need of someone else, rather than my own, brings out the blessings He provides me, day in, day out. Often blessings are disregarded or we don’t pay close attention to them. One day, like days gone by, I will feel broken. And what a blessing it will be if someone sits next to me, reminding me how much God loves me.
This woman was in a dark and lonely place. I told her how much God loves her. She responded, “I see that, because He made you, Helo. And you sat down with someone who is alone. He used you to show me His love.”
I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Thanks for your time.” I was just about to get up to run errand number six, when I remembered that I had a hidden copy of Halo Found Hope in my purse.
“Say, do you like to read?”
“Yes, I love to!”
I signed her name in the book and handed it to her. She reached out with dirty hands and clasped onto the gift. So thankful — as if I’d given her so much, when in fact it was just words on paper, bound into a book. With a twinkle in her eye and a radiating smile, she reminded me to smile more often, thank God more often, and praise Him more — even during dark moments.
My heart has a tender spot for the homeless. The hopeless. The overwhelmed. The sick. Perhaps because I’ve been through my share of heartache and trials, likely so have you, and came out of it with a greater appreciation, greater gratitude, and new perspective. Every day is a gift.
We all need mercy. We all need grace. We all need comfort. We all need strength. We all need fortitude. We all need resilience. We all need forgiveness.
We all need love.
We all need God.
And Jesus told us, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).
There’s a story behind everyone’s challenge. I don’t know why God allows certain folks to end up on the street. Or end up sick. Or lonely. Or challenged. And until their story is told, we should not judge. Instead we should love. They need Christ and hope found in Him just as much as we do. We all have or will face dark hours. Life isn’t always easy. Neither is faith. But God promises to never leave nor forsake us. All of His children need to hear that. He also never told us we wouldn’t face trouble in this life.
So how should we help others?
Don’t walk by a person in need.
Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Let God’s love saturating your own heart and soul soak someone else’s. If you have a job, a roof over your head, transportation, food in the fridge, and a closet with a change of clothing, God has provided well for you. Therefore you can help someone else. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).
Be God’s vessel.
Let Him use you to love others. And remember, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17). Give love without expecting it in return. This is generosity defined. And refined.
Looking beyond ourselves and setting our eyes on the hearts and needs of others dissolves our own complaining spirit. Remember, complaining is contagious — but so is the opposite including appreciation and gratitude. Don’t hold on so tight to the things of this world, the blessings God has given you. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Often, the things we complain about pale in comparison to what others are going through. Not always. Sometimes. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that what we are going through should be minimized by what someone else is going through. I’ve learned that when I feel like complaining, and do something kind for someone else, it erases my grumbling heart and replaces it with a happy one.
Share God’s love with someone else today.
Hope in Him,