“I always thought it would be wonderful to be a writer,” she says. “To know just like that, how to put the right words together.”
The truth is, if I do miraculously manage to put the right words together, it is by default, because I’ve already used up all the wrong ones. And when you get right down to it, what I don’t say is probably more important than what I do. – Vanishing Acts, by Jodi Picoult
There are so many things that I want to write about here. I start entries, delete them, start over again, and then copy and paste them into word documents so my desktop is covered with unfinished thoughts.
That’s kind of how we go through life: thinking about the things we should have said or should have done, leaving thoughts unsaid, conversations unfinished, refusing to say things we know we should, and saying things we know we shouldn’t. I don’t want to live like that; regretting what I should have said or done. I want to live a life where every step I take is glorifying to God, and every thought and word is beneficial. How is that possible? I feel like I can rarely get this right.
Months ago, I was driving around Madison running errands when I saw a man with a cardboard sign: “Please Help.” I pulled into the stores’ parking lot and thought, If he is there when I get out, I should give him something. However, I spent so much time in that store that when left, I had less than 5 minutes to get back to work. This man was too inconvenient for my schedule. I ended up driving through another exit where I knew I wouldn’t have to see him; wouldn’t have to feel the guilt of looking him in the eye, knowing I had at least $10 in my wallet I could I have spared.
Weeks after this, I saw the same man, with the same sign, wearing the same clothes, but in a different place. Please Help. This time, I vowed, I will give him something. I had $5 in my wallet, so I rolled down the window, gave it to him, and he smiled a genuine smile. “God bless you,” he said. I smiled in return. God bless me? I have abundantly more than I could ever ask for. This man had nothing, yet He asked God to bless me.
A while after this, I was in line buying groceries. Now, my husband and I don’t go overboard when it comes to groceries. We buy the essentials to last us through the week. Our budget for groceries isn’t huge. It’s not even that big. I consider this as I scan the groceries in my cart, mentally checking off in my head what we really didn’t need to purchase that week. I wait for the man in front of me to pay.
Suddenly, there is a hold up. The man at the register explains that they don’t accept credit cards. I glance down at the items waiting to be paid for. 1 gallon of orange juice. 1 container of eggs. 1 package of bacon. I look up at the man who is at a loss for words. He is older, and looks poor, dirty even. He clearly has no other form of payment, so he sighs, returns the credit card to his wallet, and walks out.
It was mere seconds, but it wasn’t until that man was out the door that I realized something. I could have paid for him. My heart sinks as I unload my cart. Why didn’t I do something? I watch each item of mine being scanned and when the man behind the register asks me how my day is going, I smile politely and say, “Good.” But in that moment, I didn’t feel “good.” I felt awful. What was the cost of a carton of eggs, a package of bacon, some juice? Nothing. Yet, it would have meant everything to that man. I was entirely too slow to respond.
I drive home, again wishing I had acted differently. And I pray, God, show me how to respond in these situations. Don’t let me be slow in thinking what I can do. May my actions glorify you in every situation. Be the forefront of my mind, the cornerstone of my life.
Just a few days later, Jeff and I were driving through the mall parking lot, having just picked up a few things that were (probably not) in our budget, when we notice a family; a father and three young boys. Those boys… my heart hurts thinking about them. There is something about a child in need that resonates with my soul. It almost makes me angry. A child shouldn’t have to suffer. It’s just not right. The dad held a sign that said, “I lost my job and need to support my children. Please Help.” Jeff, the great husband that he is, doesn’t think twice. He reaches for his wallet, then asks me how much money I have on me. I roll down my window as one of the little boys approaches. I hand him some money. “God bless you,” he says in broken English, “Thank you! God bless you!” and he runs off to his brothers. There it is again, God bless you. Why me? But on the other hand, I am immediately satisfied. As if somehow, this one time erased all the times I didn’t act the way I wanted to. I wonder if I was alone, how I would have acted. If it wasn’t for my husband’s good heart, would I have driven past? But it isn’t about me, is it? God answered my prayer in a way; He was showing me how to respond, through my husband. Don’t hesitate. Just do. Verses suddenly pour into my head about giving to the poor and needy, about “the least of these,” about God blessing those who do what He asks.
I know that we can’t help every person in need that we see, even if we want to, and we shouldn’t feel guilty when we can’t. And, there are other things we can do besides handing over money to people living on the streets. Jeff and I, years ago, used to keep McDonald’s gift cards in our car to hand out whenever we saw someone in need because let’s face it; we live in a world of debit and credit and don’t always have cash on us. There are organizations we can serve in that partner with the homeless and hungry, to provide shelter, clean clothes, a good meal.
It comes down to this: I don’t want to live in way where I regret not helping someone, whether a child or an adult; from someone truly hungry, to my next-door neighbor, to my friend, to my family… Especially when I know that I can. I believe that God doesn’t want me to live that way either. I guess it just starts with allowing my eyes to be open to these opportunities, and acting first before saying/thinking otherwise. In some situations, of course I should think before I act, but when it comes to helping someone… shouldn’t it be second nature to me; a Christ-Follower? I am sad when it isn’t. Let my actions speak today instead of my words, after all, words are just words if there is no action behind them.
“The Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” + Micah 6:8