Walking home today by myself, I was nearing the first intersection when I noticed an elderly lady on the ground next to a corner food stand. I slowed my pace in order to more accurately assess the situation, unclear as to whether she had fallen or was just getting to a standing position after having a small meal. I noted the walking stick in one hand, more of an obstruction than a help at this point, and an empty, dirty styrofoam bowl in the other. Upon further scrutiny, I realized she was shuffling forward on her knees, perhaps trying to get to the curb in order to more readily maneuver her feet beneath her.
My eyes averted to the man to the right of the food stand, certainly questioning with my eyebrows if something was amiss. He glanced toward me, then toward the woman, and went back to reading his newspaper or whatever he was doing at the time. I had the quick thought that maybe the cameras were rolling to capture what I would do in this situation and, in just a few short seconds, I knew I couldn’t just walk on by.
I walked up to the lady (who looked like she fell off a charm bracelet) and quietly held out my arm for assistance, knowing there were few words I would be able to say to ascertain her situation. She reached for me and together we were able to get her feet underneath her, and I grasped and supported her arm and elbow as together we crossed the street. I inquired with my limited Spanish as to where she was going, to which she replied a number of words in a voice no louder than a mouse and totally obliterated by the traffic noise. She waved her empty bowl around and I asked again where she wanted to go. My mind was already racing with the possibilities of how far I would need to support and help this woman, and I scanned the oncoming pedestrians to gauge if anyone would be able to speak English enough for me to engage a translator.
On a short rest break a mere half block down the way, she pointed to the scarf around my neck and I was able to pick out “frio” from her mutterings. Certainly, I could hand off a scarf to help her get warm, so I wrapped it around her neck while she gave me a small smile, and then pointed to my dangling earrings. I promptly started moving her along, with a nod and smile of them being “muy bonito” before she had a chance to take them out of my lobes. I let her direct the walk and we crossed the street shortly thereafter, coming to a rest in front of a restaurant. She spoke again, and I explained to her that my Spanish was very bad, to which she pointed to her bowl and then again to the restaurant. I assumed the next step was to seek out food for her in the bowl and help her in this way.
I looked around and a lovely, helpful woman saw my plight in a moment of understanding. She held up a hand to the elderly woman, indicating to her to stay, and ventured in to the restaurant with the intention to help. I took this opportunity to hand my companion a $1 coin, and proceed on my way, trusting that she now had a new helper.
The rest of my walk home was spent in contemplation and processing. It is hard to know what to do sometimes with people of all ages begging for money. Many indicate that you should never give out money on the streets as it just encourages people to continue that lifestyle. Street corners often have disabled people peddling for coins. We have a few who know to sit outside our school and you struggle with the daily obligation to perhaps contribute in some way. It is a constant battle and I am often not sure how to proceed.
While walking, I pondered if Tessa was going to miss the blue and purple scarf I gave away, I wondered if this weathered woman would sell it for money. Did she even get food at the restaurant? How far would that one dollar go? Will she sit at the same corner tomorrow hoping for more assistance from one of the gringas/gringos at the nearby school?
But, as I kept replaying the situation, I thought of how many little lessons were tied up in this one scenario –
Seizing opportunity – God provides so many moments in the day where we can share Him and be like Jesus to others. Constantly, we are faced with these choices, and, many times, we choose to go our own way rather than His. We second guess the (possible) ulterior motive of the person we are helping instead of letting the Spirit lead as only He can do.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me. Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
Allowing margin in our days – I wanted to get home. I was racing the rain storm. My list of “to-do’s” was long. But, carving out time to allow space to care and love is a necessary “re-framing” of our minds. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:2-3 (NLT)
Loving well does not always look like a weathered and worn, beautifully aged woman – it can be downright messy and hard. It can mean listening when you have no ear left to give, serving when your strength is gone, reaching out when you want to retreat. But, that is when the power of Christ in us is stronger than ever. 4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NLT)
If I don’t keep my focus on Christ on a daily basis, I won’t be able to share Him with other people. I won’t see the urgency, the need, the hurt, the pain, the joys, the frustrations…because I will be too busy looking inward to what I need rather than outward to what Jesus can do. He is the one and only answer, and I pray we will find ways each and every day to actively share this message with those in our path.
Praying for boldness to have His eyes…and then to focus…
PS. Driving home yesterday, in the distance, across lanes of traffic, we spotted a similar-looking woman ambling down the street with a walking stick. She had only one shoe. We wondered what would have transpired if she had been the person I had ventured upon when walking…