most of our week leading up to thanksgiving was spent in preparations. my mother in law came down monday to help out with the kids, and get ready for thursdays festivities. when b got off at noon on wed i made a quick trip to the store to get the last few things. thursday, we were expecting 10 people-- our family, my in laws, both my parents and b's grandma.
as i was leaving ralph's i saw a girl, prolly in her early 20's with a sign asking for food or shelter. now for most of you reading this, this isn't unique. at most shopping center exits across the nation, and in your own neighborhoods there are homeless people with those cardboard signs we know so well. most of us are so conditioned to seeing them, we don't think twice. we may give them some change, or say a quick prayer, but rarely are we moved to do anymore. i'm usually no different. but in osos, we know our homeless. we really only have one- a homeless lady- and everyone who lives here knows who she is and how to help her if they are so inclined. needless to say, seeing this young girl at ralph's really caught me off guard.
what struck me about this girl, was that i noticed across the street a young guy pushing a double stroller with a little girl in it. i rolled down the window and handed her the only cash i had-- $5. i told her good luck and god bless her and was on my way. as i drove and thought about her more, tears came to my eyes as i thought about their little girl. there was so much i wanted to do, and felt like i should do, but like so many of us i felt paralyzed. when i got home i called lealah to ask her if she had seen them and if she knew who they were. she didn't, and hadn't seen them. after talking a bit about them, she asked me if i wanted to pray for them. the one thing i really wanted to communicate with god was that i didn't want to absolve myself of responsibility, so if i was supposed to do something else, would he please quicken my spirit--or in other words, make it really obvious.
what i really wanted was for someone else to pick them up, clean them, feed them, and provide shelter for them. but if i was really honest with myself i knew what i really wanted was not to see them anymore and just assume the former was what happened. i started feeling guilty that i would have such a warm, abundant, family filled thanksgiving. with 3 small kids, the last thing i have time for is taking in a family of 3 right? and what about our safety? yet,i was conflicted-- cuz daily i pray that our family wouldn't just talk the talk, that god would provide us opportunities to walk the talk. and the thing is, i grew up with this sort of thing. wanderers and vagabonds were no strangers in our house growing up. i'm not gonna glamorize it and say we met all kinds of interesting people, cuz the reality was, was most of the people smelled horrible, were maybe really overweight, or even more often, struggling with a sort of depression or addiction i pray none of us will never know. as awkward as some of those holidays were, i know its the sort of thing that created an empathy in me i likely would not have had.
i arrived home with all these thoughts jostling around in my mind. as i walked in the door, my mother in law informed me that she would be leaving that evening and half of our expected company would not be coming at all due to b's grandma falling ill. so with a fridge full of food to feed at least 15, i realized it would only be us, and my mom and dad.
thursday morning came and honestly i didn't think once of the family. we started cooking, then took a break to enjoy some 80 degree weather at the canyon with my family. as we played in the tidepools and on the dunes, i again felt so thankful for my life. we came home and my parents had arrived and continued cooking, watching football and listening to christmas music. as i looked over and saw my dad playing trucks with oz, and lily and my mom dressing up dolls, i realized i hadn't had both my parents together like this since i was 7 years old. i could write a whole other blog about that, but i'll spare my family skeletons-- for now anyway:)
at about 3 in the afternoon lealah texted me and asked us if we could feed her dog for her. we kind of forgot till about 5 when we were about an hour from dinner being ready. b said he'd run over there. as i pulled together the last few things, b came home, and when i asked how it went he said fine. then sort of in passing he said, 'i saw the homeless family in front of ralph's.'
'really?' was my reply.
at this point my mom chimes in asking what we're talking about. i tell her the story of how i saw them and how they have a kid and how sad it is.
'we have to go get them.'
b comes in from checking the turkey and i ask him if its okay if we go get the family. he says sure. i get my keys and my dad asks where we're going. i tell him we are gonna go get a homeless family from in front of ralph's.
'sounds good. i'm used to that. i can't tell you how many times your mom brought home homeless people for holidays.'
as we're driving, my mom and i start praying. i'm beginning to feel nervous. i start having all those crazy thoughts like how embarrassing this might be, or if they're gonna steal from us, or of course, my default fear--what if they have the swine flu? then i start hoping they are gone, someone picked them up and we're relieved. then as we round the corner, i start getting excited. this is totally what we're supposed to do. this is what god would want, and i'm stoked my kids will have this opportunity. my mom, who's all to familiar with these situations reminds me that if they do come over, we have to be prepared to drop them back off-- potentially on the streets.
'its never easy,' she says.
we pull up and there they are.
my mom opens up the car door and announces, 'we want you to come to our house for thanksgiving dinner!'
girl (blushing)- 'gosh, wow that's so nice.. uh?? (looking to her husband for help)
guy- 'oh wow, uh, well we don't have a car.'
my mom- 'we can take you, we've got this van. your stroller will fit and everything.'
guy- 'oh, well we don't have a carseat for the baby.'
mom- 'that's fine, we've got carseats!'
guy- 'oh well, someone just brought us a couple plates of food.'
mom- 'we'd really love to have you, its my daughters house. she's got 3 kids, we've got so much food.'
i chime in nervously, 'yeah, really you guys should come.'
guy-'you know, i feel a little strange going to someones house i don't even know for thanksgiving.'
me- 'okay, but do you guys have somewhere to go tonite?'
girl-'yeah, actually we are watching someones house for them. we were just trying to get a little money to buy some milk for the baby and sodas for us.'
me-'okay, if you're sure. (they nod) you guys have a good night. god bless you. happy thanksgiving.
them- 'oh thanks so much. you guys are really sweet. we really appreciate it.'
when we pulled up to our house i could see my dad and b through the window. i joked with my mom that i bet they are prolly so nervous right now wondering what we accomplished. when we walked in alone the kids were bummed we didn't have the family, but hopefully they got the gist.
my mom decided the biggest irony about the situation was that here we were so nervous and apprehensive about letting them into our home-- we didn't even consider how awkward it might be for them. my mom said she really appreciated their honesty in saying they weren't sure if they wanted to spend thanksgiving with people they didn't even know. can you blame them?
i'll never forget this piper sermon i heard once. he was talking about giving money to beggars. his angle was that we can't question what they are going to do with the money.
we just give.
cuz do we want to stand before god someday and say, 'i never gave him a dime, i knew he was gonna spend it on booze.' or do we want to say, 'i gave him what i could. i prayed for him and loved him even though i never knew if it made a difference.'
even though we didn't succeed in saving the family in the way we thought, i can't tell you how good it felt to walk it out.