Sunday, July 06, 2014

This is not my story, but I'm gonna tell it anyway

She woke up on Thursday morning to an empty refrigerator and freezer. Children to feed. Herself to feed. Nothing to offer the ones she loves most. No food.

She got dressed and headed off to community college where she had to take a test in her algebra class. As she took the test, she hoped that no one around her could hear her stomach grumbling.

After the test, someone in her class told her about a hospitality room where she might find something to eat. She went there and was given a few crackers as well as the suggestion that she go to an office nearby where she could get information about where and how to get help. She filled in a form. She answered questions. She was given a referral that would allow her to come to Loaves and Fishes to get food for her family. The woman who gave her the referral said she was getting the last opening for that day.

She wasn't my client, so I am not the one who walked with her through the pantry. When she was done choosing her food, she slowly packed it all into plastic bags, but she didn't leave. She stood with her cart of food for a long time. She said she was waiting for her ride.

Then suddenly she burst into tears. I rushed over to her and asked what was wrong. She said that she had just received a text informing her that her daughter was in the hospital having a miscarriage. She kept trying to stop herself from crying while saying that she needed to pull herself together so she could be strong for her daughter. She said that she didn't want her daughter to see her cry. She needed to be strong for her.

I handed her tissues and listened. I hugged her and prayed with her. I also told her that she didn't have to be strong for her daughter. I told her that it is okay to be weak and to cry and to let her daughter see how sad that made her. I told her that tears are perfectly appropriate at a time like that and so was grief and sadness. After all, her daughter is only 18 years of age and had recently returned from running away from home. She had been gone for three weeks, and when she got back, she revealed that she was pregnant.

We talked for a long time. She cried. I cried. We hugged several times. Then I went outside with her and waited with her in the blazing heat. We talked some more.

She told me about wanting to get an associate's degree in human resources so she could support her family. She talked about her classes and some of her classmates. She also hoped that by going back to school at the age of 48, she would inspire her son, who had dropped out of high school and was now living with his girlfriend and their child. She was as giddy and happy and proud of herself as any new college co-ed.

Occasionally her chin would start to quiver as she remembered her daughter's situation again. So I would lean in again and rub her shoulder. She soon began to repeat a thought that has been a mantra of mine for years - "It's gonna be okay." "Everything is gonna be alright." All shall be well. All shall be well. I agreed heartily.

She said, "I'm so glad I came here today and met you. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for waiting with me. I'm sorry I took you away from your work." I told her, "Working at the pantry is not only about the food. It's about the people. It's about the people."

Later on, I had a bizarre thought. The Bible says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose. I thought, is it possible that she woke up hungry on Thursday morning, went to school for her test, crossed the campus for crackers and ended up coming to the food pantry so that we could meet, so that I could hear her story, cry with her, pray with her, and then we could both be blessed by our time together?

Then I wondered: Why did she have to go through all that? Why does anybody have to wake up to empty cupboards and empty stomachs? How is it that there are so many hungry people in this world and in our nation, especially where there are also so many people who eat so much more than they need and others who waste more food than they eat? I do not know the answer to those questions.

But I do know this - I know that serving at the Loaves and Fishes pantry is one of the most satisfying, joy-producing, heart-opening things I do every month. I know that the people I meet there are some of the funniest, kindest, most grateful, most interesting people I meet every month. I also know that my life is richer and my prayer life will be deeper because I met that beautiful, strong, hopeful, tearful, anguished, messy, funny, determined woman this past Thursday afternoon. I hope I never forget her.

1 comment:

Qurra said...

This is such an amazing and wonderful story...and I totally agree with "all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose." In Islam we believe this as well, and that life is a test, and anyone who suffers a lot are really loved by God, because when you go through hardships, you get closer to God through prayers. Even for me I was able to get closer to God through hardships through prayers ~ certainly the meeting between you and the lady was not a coincidence, and this is such a beatiful story :') Thank you so much for sharing this story with us, and I will sure never forget this inspiring story.