Picking up where I left off…with sincere thanks for your VERY thoughtful comments.
But it’s not a perfect world and that night no one would be coming home with me.
In the few minutes between Krystal and Lifeway, the mind-war waged. The saga of Elizabeth Smart replayed–didn’t that begin with her parents hiring her deranged kidnapper because they felt sorry for him?
Memory transported me back 37 years. One of the most distinct memories of my mother (I can’t believe it didn’t surface when I was writing this) was her concern for others. She drove an old sedan, and I can remember on hot sunny days and on the dreadfully rainy, filling our car with double? triple?? layers of schoolmates–some we knew and some we didn’t–and driving them to the Projects in our home town. I hated it when she did this; when I close my eyes to remember, I can still smell the stench of unbathed bodies; I didn’t understand what it was or why it might be until I was much older. Unencumbered by seat belts, we were a tangled mass of black and white, and there was no regard for my need or want for "personal space"…Mama thought some things were more important than my "right" to comfort.
and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?"
I wonder at what age I began to see my mother as a hero for this action. This was the late 60s and early 70s where racism was still rampant in the South. She didn’t care what others might think, her heart couldn’t be bridled by such ridiculous insanity.
It’s fascinating how conflicting thought rages epic battle in mere seconds, yes?
Before I made it back to the bookstore, I saw them a block closer to where I was. The entire family: in addition to Tammy and her baby, her husband and two sons were with her now. I turned into the parking lot adjacent to them, while simultaneously rolling down my window. Tammy was looking for me.
I grinned and asked, "Today isn’t your birthday by chance, is it?". It wasn’t, but her daughter had just celebrated her second birthday over the weekend. Her two elementary-aged boys thought my question a game and excitedly told me when their birthdays were. I told Tammy and her husband, Allen, I had brought them a gift card to Krystal, and after asking "How much?" she was relieved and grateful.
I couldn’t leave it at that…so in typical form, I gently asked questions–Allen was born here but they had been in Ohio most recently to care for his mother…he didn’t have a job yet, but wanted to return to the area, and he was "looking"…they were going to try to secure temporary housing the next day…. Tammy said, "I’ll pray for you and you pray for me," and I could tell they wanted to move on. I had to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house, so we said our good-byes and parted.
I visited with Rachel’s friend’s mom for about half an hour, and when we pulled out of their drive, I told Rachel what had just happened. She wanted to meet this family, and I was curious to see if they were still at Krystal; I knew it was possible enough time had passed they could’ve come and gone…or not gone at all.
When we reached the restaurant, it was empty (around 8:00 p.m.). By this point, though, I was on a mission to find them. To corroborate their story? To help them further? A self-serving need-to-know of my own? I don’t know for sure, but I turned in the direction of the Microtel.
About a block from Krystal, we found them walking on a VERY busy road, even at night. They didn’t see us. I turned toward the motel they mentioned, but couldn’t find it…and I wavered in my hope they were telling the truth. I turned around and headed back to where I had seen them, drove past them (still searching) in case I had the location wrong, and the last time I saw them they were at a stop light getting ready to cross the street. It was just before night cover.
Throughout this whole pursuit, Rachel and I were talking. I lamented the fact I couldn’t help the way I really wanted, how I was obligated to protect my family and even myself for their sake, and questioning whether or not the Owens were telling the truth.
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers
of mine, you did for me.’
In the end, the truthfulness of their story didn’t matter as much to me as these truths:
My sincere desire was simply to glorify God by incarnating His son…in essence to love Him by loving others. I’m pretty certain that’s important to Him.
Second, my daughter’s response: "Mom, even if it was a scam, you blessed ME by what you did…". She has commented on more than one occasion that she’s sick of "people" talking about what you should do at the expense of actually doing it.
A teachable moment? Certainly not the intent. But with that, I knew in an instant I was blessed to be a blessing, only to be unexpectedly blessed again.
Life interrupted or divine appointments? I wonder how often I see one and not the other.
Scripture excerpted from Matthew 25:31-40, New Living Translation
Photo credit: Allposters.com