You would have noticed her, too, the woman leaning into the passenger side window of the car parked next to mine desperately begging from two men who were equally determined not to be disturbed.
When she didn’t leave even after they clearly showed they weren’t offering her any help, they simply drove away without a word–leaving a woman cursing the back of their car and a boy about eight years old watching tail lights.
I’m not sure why I wanted to help her because, If I’m honest, when I walk into the parking lot and see another person looking for charity headed my way I often sigh inwardly. It happens so often and after five years of many people walking away when I offer them the thing they are asking for–food, transit–I’m finding it harder to respond to their requests with patience and love.
As I unloaded my groceries I found myself hoping I’d get a chance to talk with her. Not surprisingly, she headed my way next. She said she she needed help, that she was homeless, that her little brother was killed in a fire in a hotel a few days ago.
I asked if they needed a place to stay. Surprised at my question, she said they did, but her needs became deeper with every offer I made. There were eight of them. Her mom is in a wheelchair. She didn’t want to go to a shelter because her sister was raped in one a few days ago.
She was shaking all over and her shoulder muscles were bulging. Her son yawned as though he was bored. A security guard was keeping an eye on us–ready to step in if needed. I was doubting her story; but if it was true, if even part of it was true, she really did need help.
I told her I’d make some calls to see what I could do to help. She stepped aside, and I went to the back of my vehicle to get a couple bananas while I was calling Steve. I had a pretty strong sense that her story might not be true, but still wanted to help if I could.
A few minutes later I had the phone number ready. I looked up expecting to see her at another car begging the next person while waiting for me, but she hadn’t stayed to see if I could help. Another time I might have left, but God had stirred compassion in my heart and I circled the garage over and over hoping to see her again.
She was gone. I drove home with the phone number and a couple bananas on my lap, a little sad, praying for a stranger, hoping that she would find the help she needs even if it looks different than the help she’s looking for.
When people are desperate and we want to offer hope. We give freely because we know a God who offers second chances, who loves unconditionally, and who can completely change lives. We really want to share Him with others.
What we have to offer could change someone’s life. It might be passed by. It’s disappointing when our gifts (whether it’s just a couple bananas or something much more life changing) are rejected or abused, but there is peace in following God when He leads us to do good whether or not giving results in changes we want to see.
Sometimes stories don’t end the way we wish, but it’s always right to offer love. And when you think about it, the story might not be over.