Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Unfinished Business

The last two days have given me a lot to think about.  I'm dumbfounded.  Maybe it is a good thing God only lets us see a little bit at a time... 

Case #1:  My boys are becoming very interested in skateboarding, so we've been hitting the skate park after dinner.   Last night, I noticed a very little boy who was surprisingly proficient on a scooter and a little girl hanging out behind one of the jumps.  I didn't see any parents, but assumed, since the kids were so young, that they were close by. 

I saw them again tonight, and unfortunately, I was wrong.  The young girl wandered over to our game of tennis, so I invited her to join us.  I asked her where her Mom was.  She said, "She's not really around here."  After a few more questions from me, I learned that her Mom lives in Southgate (a low-income apartment complex), but she is living with the other kids who are her cousins and their parents, across the street from the skate park.  Apparently, tonight, the parents were in Snook - a little town 16 miles from here, and the oldest cousin (a teenage girl) was in charge of the others (ages 12, 7, and 3-the little boy on the scooter).  . 

It was a little after 8pm, so I told her we were going to have to go, because it was bedtime.  She said, "It's 8:00?  My bedtime is 8:30."  I told her "You better go soon, too, so you can get to bed on time."  Then, she told me, "I can't.  When the parents leave, we can't get in the house", proceeded to name all of the doors that were locked, and said "Maybe 1:00".  I said, "1:00 in the morning?!"  She nodded.

I felt sick as I packed up our tennis gear, imagining those little kids "stuck" at the skate park for any length of time, let alone until 1:00 in the morning!  I wanted to take her with me (and her 3-year-old cousin, too), but I couldn't figure out how to get around the inevitable kidnapping charge.  Instead, I thanked her for playing with us, and she ambled away.  I couldn't believe I was leaving her and her 3-year-old cousin there.  The very-foul language and sometimes overt sexuality at the skate park make me uncomfortable.  My mind raced as we went home and I put my own boys in bed. 

After bedtime prayers and kisses goodnight, I drove back up to the skate park and had a look around.  I decided that if I couldn't take those kids to my house and put them to bed, I could at least call the police, and get somebody on the job.  Fortunately, the kids were nowhere around, and I turned around and went home. 

I don't know if anything will come of it, but they are definitely on my "radar".  There are soccer moms, classroom moms, hockey moms, you-name-it...  Where are the skateboard moms?!!

Case #2:  I received a voicemail from the Church office yesterday, with details of a lady who was asking if anyone could bring her groceries, and whether the transportation ministry (which I coordinate) could help.  However, earlier that morning, a friend unexpectedly picked up my 4-year-old for an overnighter, so I was really looking forward to a full day of FREEDOM.

I tried to ignore the voicemail (reasoning that it was likely a lady I already know), and finished up some paperwork that I needed to take to the Church anyway.  When I dropped the paperwork off, the secretary in the Church office told me that the lady needing groceries had already called back three times, thinking that she'd missed the call.  Ugh. 

I walked out to my car, trying to decide which chunk of my freedom I wanted to lose - to run an errand for someone I didn't know.  I reluctantly picked up my phone and called her, hoping that she could wait one more day.  I didn't ask her, but she couldn't.  Her daughter was sick, and she wanted to make some soup to get her well.  I took down her list and headed to HEB.

Have you ever grocery shopped for someone you didn't know?  What brand of bouillon do they like?  What is "sweet bread" if it isn't the Hawaiian kind?  Did you know Nescafe comes in cinnamon and dark roast?  Are store brand instant potatoes as good as name brand? 

After marking through everything on her list, and getting my list, too, I was on my way.  I knocked on the front door, and stood there with grocery sacks up my arms.  I waited, but no one came.  I rang the doorbell, and no one came.  I started walking around the house, and I saw her.

I don't mean to be stereotypical, but she looked like one of those kind-eyed, short-in-stature, 80-year-old ladies from the Himalayas, smiling for a National Geographic photographer.  She insisted on taking some of the groceries from my arms, and I retrieved more.  She kept saying "You're an angel, You're an angel" and told me how she started "praying and praying" after she called all of the grocery stores, and churches, and found out no one delivers. 

We piled all of the groceries on the dryer in the musty garage, and I asked about her daughter.  She quickly and quietly said, "Aca! Aca!" and ushered me into the house.  Laundry was piled up all around the perimeter of the living room, like a laundry service with hills of white sheets, and water was running full blast in the bathroom.  She apologized for the house, and led me to a very thin lady laying in a chair in the middle of the room, with her feet propped up on an end table. 

She roused her 50-year-old daughter who she described as being very weak, after vomiting for days last week, after eating something.  Her daughter was now unable to walk, and she thought some soup might help her get some strength back.  The daughter half-smiled, made brief eye contact, and thanked me for coming, at her mother's insistence.  She had not been to the doctor, and I'm not sure why. 

My lady was eager to fix the soup.  I offered to take her daughter to the hospital, if the soup didn't help.  She said she would call me if she needed help, paid me $77 for the groceries (plus $23 for the Church, and $10 for my gas), and I left.  I kept wondering if I should have pushed harder to take her daughter to the hospital, but I had to get home to meet my kids after school.

I fully expected to hear from her today.  I didn't hear anything and called twice with no answer.  Tonight, to my chagrin, my husband informed me of a recent E.coli outbreak in our area.  If I can't get her on the phone tomorrow, I'm going to see if I can track them down at one of the local hospitals... 

In both of these circumstances, I feel powerless.  Instead of having the ability to tie up the loose ends with a pretty bow, I'm restricted to this little desk, writing to you.  I hope my sharing will help you go to these places with me.  Entering into another person's world is a tremendous privilege.  Even, and especially if it is unsettling to do so.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for beautiful weather, friends who love my kids, and the world wide web.  Thank you for meeting and surpassing my needs and expectations.  Lord, my heart is heavy tonight for the kids growing up at the skate park, and the lady with the sick daughter.  You know where they are, and you know what they need.  Please make Your Presence known to them.  Thank you for using us to answer another's prayers.  Thank you for a conscience that doesn't let selfishness dictate every move.  Thank you for the generosity and joy of the lady, who was so happy to give, though it seemed like she needed what she was giving.  Thank you for allowing encounters with the "poor in spirit".  They teach me everything I need to know.  I'm sorry I hesitated at the opportunity to receive what you were offering.  Please grant me the grace to love You and my neighbor with all my heart, according to Your will.  I love You, and know You are near.  Amen.   


  1. Your skate park story got me right in the gut. It takes me back to my teaching days when too often I heard such stories. I have taught two children who I wanted nothing more than to bring them home with me. I think sometimes God just wants us to pray for those he puts in our path. Prayer is so powerful. You continue to inspire me. Thanks!

    1. I can only imagine how often teachers see this. I am convicted, even more today, of our role as intercessors and the power of prayer. Sometimes, that is all we can do. Thank you, Sarah.

  2. Just a follow-up for those who are interested... I called the lady again this morning, but there was no answer. I called the local hospitals, and she was not there. So, I went to her house, and she answered the door. I pleaded with her to let me help her take her daughter to the hospital and she refused. There is nothing more I can do, but pray.

  3. Heidi, God is putting you in the right places at the right times. If I had seen the kids at the skate park, I probably would have done what you did. I do encourage you to call the police or even CPS (with the address of the home) if this happens again. I witnessed a 3 year old neighbor often running around the neighborhood by himself and it never occurred to me at the time to call CPS- not sure why didn't. The way you help strangers is inspiring. I am blessed to have you as a friend.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. It is fascinating to me that what seems like a clear course of action in another person's life lacks the same clarity in our own. I'm blessed to know you. Thank you for your sharing your experience.