Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Quiet Week of Quiet Wonder

This one is really long - so you may want to take it in small doses.
One week ago right now, Kristiana and I were in uptown Charlotte (that's the city center) with a group of people from our church feeding breakfast to the homeless. Every Saturday morning, the large kitchen at our church presses itself into action and prepares food for over 250 people, and then volunteers haul it uptown and serve it to as many people as show up. I am sorry to say that last Saturday was the first time I'd gone. I am glad to say that it was not the last time.

As we waited for the leaders of our group to get all the food and drink tables set up, Kristiana and I decided to take a stack of cups and a gallon of orange juice and make our way up the line of people and serve OJ to our guests. Smiles, thanks, comments about the benefits of vitamin C, and several queries as to whether or not the beautiful young woman at my side was my daughter were the responses we received. We ended up serving five or six containers of OJ to dozens and dozens of people in line.

After they'd eaten, I moved along the street with a garbage bag asking if anyone needed to throw anything away. One homeless gentleman offered to find someone among his friends to collect the garbage, insisting that I shouldn't have to clean up after them. I thanked him for his offer but explained to him that the reason I had come was to serve them.

Few words passed between me and Kristiana during the course of the two hours we spent serving together, but when we did speak of it later, we agreed that we should participate in that program at least once per month. It's the least we can do.

Later that evening, Steve and I went out to dinner. Appetizers. Drinks. Salad. Entrees. We spent over $100. At no point during the meal were those homeless men and women far from my thoughts. What a day of extremes.

Last October soon after returning from my trip to Sevilla, Steve and I went to the office of a local attorney to sign papers to refinance our mortgage. Our ridiculously low interest rate was coming to the end of its five year term, so Steve fished around and found a rate that was not quite as low, but still a good deal. Upon entering the office, I had a strange feeling. Something didn't feel right. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, and I still cannot explain the angst, the unease, the dis-ease that came over me. But there it was.

Our attorney sat with us at the huge conference table sliding paper after paper in front of us. Sign here. Sign here. This means this. That means that. Sign here. Sign there. All the while I had many questions like: how do we know this is all what it says it is? How do we know that this won't go wrong somewhere along the line? What if this? What if that? Steve laughed at my questions. Although he answered my questions, the lawyer seemed indifferent to both of us. Whatever, just sign here.

Two weeks later, he called Steve and confessed that he'd forfeited his license to practice law in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because he had gotten himself into financial difficulties and had not paid off our mortgage. He had kept our money and used it to pay off a debt he owed. I should have honored my intuition that morning, that still, small voice that told me something was wrong. My odd and inexplicable premonition that something was amiss was accurate.

Sound confusing? What happens is this: banks that are taking on a new mortgage forward the money to an escrow account in the name of the lawyer who then passes the money along to the bank that is selling the old one. In our case (and in the case of other clients of his), the attorney didn't forward the money as he was supposed to. He kept it for his personal use, hoping that another mortgage would come along. He would use that money to pay our mortgage and hopefully keep the whole scam rolling along. He ran out of luck. And we got stuck in the middle. The new bank wanted its mortgage payments, and so did the old one. Two mortgage payments!

God is good. Steve works hard and gets paid well. If worse came to absolute worse, we could have handled it. College funds for the children would have been left to languish. Not as many trips abroad for our family, but we wouldn't have gone bankrupt.

We prayed a lot. We spoke to three lawyers. Three different answers. We decided to go it alone this time - alone with The Alone that is. We never hired a lawyer. Steve called the mortgage broker (the ones who sent us to that lawyer) several times, the title insurance company (the ones who make sure that the banks' interests are served) several times, and we both called upon Our Advocate, The High Judge of All the Land in prayer many, many times. We made the decision to pay the new mortgage only once. We figured that if we paid them as they expected us to, they would have no reason to pressure the title insurance company or anyone else to settle this issue. We had done nothing wrong, so we shouldn't be the ones left in the lurch.

During this quiet week of quiet wonder, our many prayers - and the prayers of many people who knew of our ordeal and asked for mercy and justice to be done on our behalf - were answered. The title insurance company paid off the debt to our original mortgage bank, and we are back to paying only one mortgage. Tears of joy, relief, and gratitude flow even as I type this.

Here's the thing: the extremes of this week are wider, broader than the Grand Canyon in my mind and in my heart. We were being called upon to pay two mortgages. We could have done it if we'd been forced to. We wouldn't have had to sell anything or downsize or alter our lives in any significant way. But within a few miles from here, perhaps within our own prim and proper community, are hundreds, thousands of people who are living on the edge. Hanging on to the edge by their fingertips. Many are over the edge and living on the street.

So as we come to the end of this quiet week of quiet wonder, we give thanks. We give honor and glory to God for His provision for us. For His protection over us. And we commit ourselves to giving back. To giving from our excess so that others can eat, be clothed, receive medical attention, attend school, and hear the good news of new life that God offers. We are more convinced than ever that we have been blessed in order to bless others.

But that's not all that has happened this week. I will share one more story.

Last year, Daniel was blessed with a talented, patient, and insightful basketball coach named Glenn Dally. He taught the boys the fundamentals of the game, coached them on how to adjust their play based on the team they faced, and above all to play the game with integrity. Daniel's team won the league championship, and the league all-star team on which Daniel played under the leadership of Coach Dally beat all the all-star teams they faced. He is without a doubt the best basketball coach either of our children has ever had; he may be the best coach either of them has had in any sport.

Even though he isn't coaching Daniel this year, we have been glad to see him and his family whenever our paths cross here in Charlotte. Simply put, it is good to know that they are in the area. We found out a few weeks ago that he and his family are moving back to Texas. They will leave next week and head back to their hearts' true home. We are truly saddened to bid them farewell.

Earlier this week, Coach Dally sent Steve an email and asked if he could have a one-on-one coaching session with Daniel. Just the two of them. He wanted to teach Daniel a few more things, press a few goals and ideas into his head, and wish him well. I sat there on the floor of the Ardrey Kell High School auxiliary gymnasium this past Thursday evening and watched that man pour his heart into the life of my son. I will never forget that night. I will never forget that man. None of us will ever forget him. What a blessing, what a gift. Once again, I am moved to tears - but my kids say I cry over anything - because he sees something in our son, in my son that merited his personal attention and affection. He reached out to us - to our son in his final days here in Charlotte. He extended himself on Daniel's behalf and asked for nothing in return.

As this week comes to a close, I am left with a thousand questions.

Whose life am I pouring my heart into? If we were to leave Charlotte, who would I call and invite to a final time of fellowship so that I could tell them everything I think they need to know in order to live well? Why not start doing that right now? Why wait until I think the end is approaching? Who do I call or write to just because I want them to prosper, to know that they are loved, remembered, and cherished? Who will think of me and know that I gave of myself, that I listened, that I cared, that I loved them?

When I go uptown and see the men and women sitting on the benches, passing the hours until they can line up for a bed at one of the local shelters, will I look at them differently now because of last Saturday's experience? Will any of them recognize me as the woman who served them orange juice and cleaned up after them? Will I recognize any of them?

How can I say thanks to the many friends and loved ones who have loved me,
supported me, taught me, fed and clothed me during the course of my life?

A quiet week of quiet wonder.
A momentous week of momentous wonder.
Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

Goddess of Leonie said...

gail, you are always such a blessing.
thank you.