She wandered into our lives over a year ago …asking for work . If I could draw a picture, I would draw a very thin woman — average height — with sandy blonde hair , a contagious smile and sparkling blue eyes.
“Do you have any work I can do ? I’m hungry. I just need $4.00. I’ll do anything — wash windows, clean your bathroom, rake leaves, cut the grass. ”
She rarely just asks for money — although, there’s the occasional, “Do you have 50 cents so I can buy a cigarette?” Most often, the plea is attached to a willingness to do honest work because she says that makes her feel better about herself .
We’ve let her rake and clean and paint — honest work — trying hard to preserve her personal dignity and worth as best we know how.
The question is often asked, “But what do “they” do with the money they earn ? ” and I’m wondering if the question that should burn deeper is , “But what do we do with the money we earn?”
There are some who tell me there’s no hope …”you’ll only change maybe one out of a hundred”, they say . They tell me it’s a cycle in and out of jail or rehab — cleaning up and fattening up for 3 months or so — then back on the streets again.
Both fear of the “what if” or knowledge of the “what is” can paralyze. Love frees both to walk. Reputations come and go …loving someone home to Jesus lasts forever. It gets messy . I get anxious. Jesus urges me to press through all of that. I pray for discernment and the Holy Spirit’s minute-by-minute guidance …and try to keep walking.
We have many conversations around our kitchen island or on our front porch or in our living room as we offer a plate of food or something cold to drink on these hot southern days. Along with many others — neighbors, friends, and family –we offer clothes, necessities ...we offer friendship.
We listen to stories of abuse and rejection and loss and I can’t hold back the tears wondering how anyone could survive her story. Her birth certificate may give an accurate age according to years but her face tells time in a whole different way …worn, tired, lonely, heavy. And yet I see the most beautiful blue eyes and a smile seep through her worn face that brightens any room …changing the view into someone beautiful …someone who deserves to be loved and valued.
Turns out she loves music and playing the piano and the guitar. With childlike giddiness, she says, “Let’s go inside and play the piano and sing!” …and we do just that …me and my homeless friend sitting together at the piano singing “Amazing Grace” as grace flows down on both of us …both in need of that same grace and both homeless … waiting on our “real home” that’s not of this world.
Her knock on the door one afternoon was of desperation . She wanted to come in and play the piano or guitar . Our house was full that day and at first, it seemed a bit of an interruption . Her persistence melted my heart and we invited her to come on in. She came in– only to play our little guitar for a brief few minutes — much like a 5 year old would do. It was just what she needed, she said …” to calm her nerves”.
I desperately wanted to take her under my wings and bring her in and give her a home that’s loving and secure …one she’s always longed for and dreamed about but I wondered if walls could hold her …if my normal would fit the largeness of her life …if my borders would seem claustrophobic for the life of open sky she’s used to.
When she shows up on our doorstep for a visit, it’s as if a long-lost family member has come home and we welcome her back in every time — never letting go of her in between the here …or there. There are hugs, laughter, sometimes music and almost always eating together. There are usually more stories shared that have marked her life and our’s …ending with her famous response — “Bless your heart”. But I’ll never forget her words as she was leaving one day recently … she turned and said, “Thank you for being my friend.”
Nights later I had a dream. It was simple, but full of excitement. I was In heaven saying hello to others I knew when across the room a very thin woman — average height — with sandy blonde hair , a contagious smile and sparkling blue eyes turned around and smiled mischievously. I was so excited …and shocked ! There she was — my homeless friend ! …an angel all along !
Needless to say, my perspective has changed since that dream !
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.