Friday, October 29, 2010
A GIFT FROM OUT OF THE BLUE
I came out of the grocery store Friday afternoon and saw two women having a discussion in the parking lot. I didn't know if they had been involved in a fender bender, or just friends that hadn't seen each other in a while.
When one turned away and briskly ran into the store, I wondered if what I had seen wasn’t a conversation, but someone soliciting help.
Shamefully, I have to admit, I was hoping if the person needed help that she wouldn’t ask me.
I was in a hurry. Seth was coming for the weekend and Jim was home waiting for the chicken, I had just bought, to grill. I had a list of things I wanted to get done so we could have a relaxing weekend, just enjoying one another.
I knew if she asked, it would be hard to say no, so I was hoping she wouldn’t ask.
Remember, I am shamefully admitting this.
I was almost out of the parking lot and in the clear, when the woman stepped out from a row of cars, frantically waving her arms in the air.
My first thought was “oh no.”
I stopped, rolled down the window, and with terribly broken English, she told me what she needed.
Her car was in the shop and she needed to go to a copying business, about a mile and a half up the road, to copy some important papers so she could get them in the mail. She said if I would just drop her off at the business to get her papers copied, she could then walk across the street to the post office. I asked her how she would get back to the grocery store parking lot and back to her house. She said that she would walk.
She insisted that it had to be done today because she had to work on Saturday.
She was desperate.
I told her to get into the car.
I thought I remembered that the business she was talking about was no longer there, and sure enough it wasn't. The woman was upset. She told me to wait as she went in to ask the new occupants of the building if they knew where the business had moved.
I chuckled when she, in her broken English, told me to stay put. There was something innocent and trusting in the way she was telling me, the one who was helping her, what to do.
She came back and said, “New York. The people go to New York.”
She asked me to please take her across the street to the post office. She said that maybe there would be someone that could help her with the copying machine that was in the lobby.
Then it appeared “a light came on,” and she put her hand on my shoulder and said with a huge smile across her little face and her head nodding yes, "You help me. Yes. You help me with the machine. Right? You help me.”
Undone by her persistence and desperation, and her trust in me, I called Jim to let him know what was going on and that I would be late getting home.
Jim told me to do what I could do to help her.
Being “technologically-challenged,” it took me a few minutes to figure out the machine.
I was still in a hurry. I won't go into the details, but she was definitely not in a hurry.
When Nora, my new friend, handed me the first paper to copy, and I saw the name Kenneth Feinberg, I knew why God had chosen me to help her.
Kenneth Feinberg is the person who is responsible for distributing funds to those who have suffered economic loss due to the BP oil spill.
I have ranted and raved about the losses that innocent, hard working people along the Gulf coast have suffered as the result of the oil spill. I’ve read story after story about the fear and anxiety families have experienced as their financial security has been pulled out from under their feet. I’ve read about businesses that have been here for 30 years that have faced the possibility of closing their doors for good.
Hearing stories of people waiting in long lines only to be turned away empty-handed or with a small check that wouldn’t even pay a power bill, I wondered if there would ever be financial restitution for my unknown neighbors. I also thought that it would be those that needed it the most, that would probably be the least likely to be reimbursed for their loss. Filling out numerous forms, providing tax documentation, getting the right information, might be overwhelming to those who spoke little English or to those with the least resources.
I must say, that I have heard in the last few weeks, that the process seems to be working. Apparently people are beginning to be reimbursed for lost wages and businesses are being reimbursed for lost revenue. For that I am thankful.
Maybe because of my raving and ranting about the injustice of it all, God chose me to help, in a tiny way. To help just one of the victims that I had been so concerned about. Maybe He was saying, “Here’s your chance, Cheri.”
Nora told me that someone from the resort where she had previously been employed had helped her get her paper work together. I was thankful for the kindness of that person.
When I had finished copying the papers, Nora handed me a pen. She wanted me to write her claim number on each page and to fill out the envelope.
She kept telling me, “You do it. You do it.”
I felt a huge responsibility to get it right. I checked and rechecked the numbers and the address. I smiled as Nora checked and rechecked them, too.
As Nora handed the envelope to the lady behind the counter, I stood beside her and prayed that God’s favor would be all over that envelope. I prayed that God Himself would make sure that it got to the right people and that they would handle it with the care and concern that would enable Nora to receive her money. I asked for His supernatural intervention.
I then told Nora that I was taking her home.
She seemed happy and relieved, no longer desperate. I strained to understand as she told me about herself. She had been a citizen for ten years. She worked three jobs. Her son joined the Air Force after he had graduated from Florida State University. She told me that she didn’t get to go to church because she worked every Saturday and Sunday. She asked me if I had children and smiled when I told her I had two boys. She told me a lot of things I couldn’t understand. But, I smiled and nodded just the same.
When Nora got out of the car in front of her home, a little apartment in a very run down complex, she couldn’t stop telling me thank you. I told her I was happy that I could help and that I would continue to pray that she would receive her money.
Nora continued to humbly bow, up and down, in gratitude, as I left her street.
And as I drove home, my heart was bowed in thanks. Bowed before a God that continues to teach me, to train me and that allows me to be a part of His kingdom on this earth. The tears were coming, as I remembered not wanting to be bothered by a stranger in need.
I wondered if I was supposed to do more for Nora. Did I miss something? The two hours I had spent with her now seemed insufficient. What had seemed to be a big deal at the time, now seemed like nothing. I started to feel guilty.
But shortly, God’s peace came. I had done what He had asked me to do. It was time to go home and prepare for the gift of being together that He was giving to our family.
There have been some questions I think God has been asking me since I met Nora.
“Did you sense her desperation?”
“Did you see what her desperation caused her to do?”
“Are you desperate, Cheri?”
“Are you desperate enough?”
More on desperation in a later post.
Lord Jesus, I know you heard my prayer in the post office last Friday. I ask you to please continue to protect Nora's claim for her reimbursement and to show favor upon it with every hand that touches it. I ask you to provide her steady employment with employers that will be kind to her. Give her good health and please keep her son safe as he serves our country. Amen