Friday, October 16, 2009

A Face Behind the Cardboard

Since my family expanded from 2 to 5 members, it seems my watch has started to run faster. What used to be one 2-minute bathroom break per weekly shopping trip has turned into at least one 15-minute detour, sometimes two. And whereas I used to skip lunch, now the brood insists taking time for food is mandatory.

Each time I venture into town, I struggle to get the children home for 2:00 nap time. Sometimes on the 30 minute drive home, I sing loud, goofy songs with Wyatt or reach back to shake little legs and feet in hopes of keeping the twins awake just a few more minutes.

Yesterday was no different. But traffic wasn't cooperating, and the twins had already drifted off. If I didn't get them home soon, there would be no napping in cribs, no quiet time for me to decompress.

As I drove at full speed onto the exit ramp, I saw it 100 yards in front of me--a green light. I pushed down the gas pedal.

And then I saw her--a woman standing with a cardboard sign beside the white line that told cars where to stop. I sighed. It seems there's always someone at this particular intersection...and it seems the light always turns red so I have to sit there as I face stoically forward, pretending to ignore the person's sign, the shabby clothes, the weather-worn face, the need.

As I drove, I kept my eyes firmly on the light, as if my willing it to stay green would do just that. And this time, it did.

But as I whizzed toward the intersection, I glanced her way and gasped. It wasn't her sign that said "Traveling. Need Help. God Bless."

It was the knowledge that this wasn't an anonymous face. I knew this woman's name. I knew part of her story. I knew she had family.

My heart immediately felt the crush of God's convicting Spirit. I was shamed by my own rush to get through the green light just so I could avoid her.

Could I change my mind? Stop to offer help? No. The light remained bright green. And traffic behind me wasn't too thrilled that my sudden braking might make them have to sit at a red light and avoid her silent request for help.

Each time I ignore the anonymous face, my conscience burns within me. When with my husband, I will sometimes give a ready-to-eat food item to ensure they at least have something to eat. But most of the time, I do nothing.

Each weekend, I have a "to do" list. Since I know it's just a matter of days before I see another face behind the cardboard, this weekend's list includes a plan to create small packages that will minister to the body and soul of those I encounter at red lights.

My Lord and Savior said, "For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes" (Matt. 25:35).

Without the help of others and God's grace, I could be the one standing there feeling others' disdain and scorn.


  1. Jennifer,

    What a beautiful (and convicting) post. What an wonderful idea to put together a "care package" to have ready for next time.

    This reminds me, back in January of this year, my hubby and some good friends of ours were going on a cruise. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale a day and a half early and we spent the day sightseeing and walking through some shops. Hubby and I were headed back to the hotel from getting ice cream and we passed a homeless gentlemen who had a jacket and pants on but he was barefoot. We hesitantly walked by him (being in a stange city is no excuse). As we passed him I thought to myself "Go offer to buy this gentlemen some shoes".

    Of course I didn't say anything and as my husband and I reached the hotel we began talking about the man we had husband said the same thing came to his mind. I felt guilty being there with shoes on my feet waiting to go on a vacation and here was a guy who had fallen on hard times and had no shoes on for his feet.

    This was one defining moment for me that I still think about. I really wished I would have listened to my heavenly Father's was a real eye opener to me and I will never let an opportunity like that pass me by again. I too am going to be "prepared" to listen to the Spirits calling!


  2. Thanks for the compelling story, Julie. I sometimes get so busy with fulfilling my own plans that I don't hear (or don't pay attention to) the plans the Spirit has for me. Thankfully, God doesn't just toss me aside when I fail. He uses that failure to teach me, to change me for next time.

  3. Oh, Jennifer, what a beautiful, heart-wrenching story! I live in a small town, so we don't ever see people standing at intersections holding signs. I love how transparent you were here, to share how God burdened your heart for these people. You should share this story with your local newspaper! What a difference it would make if everyone kept something ready for situations like this!

    Have a blessed week, my sister in Christ!

  4. Jennifer, I hope you don't mind, I added the link to this post on my 'Big Butt Club' post. I hope a lot more people see this...

  5. I'm familiar with a culture where strangers, people you don't know, are considered almost as "non-persons." Seems that we do that here in our own culture too. Seeing folks as real people -- fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends of someone makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer. I need to see the real people.