Janie finished buckling Ethan into his car seat. His dark tangle of curls barely pushed into place. At least she’d wiped the jam off his cheeks. “There you go, Peanut,” she smiled, “let’s get to church, okay? Mommy doesn’t want to be late for her meeting.”
Ethan kicked his feet and squealed, “Yeah!”
Janie was glad he was so cooperative this morning. It took at least 20 minutes to get to church on a good day. A smile dimpled Ethan’s cheeks. He waved as she closed the back door.
Cold whipped at Janie’s slacks, sneaking into the front seat before her. She would have preferred a minivan but Ryan vetoed that. Still, the Civic was a nice car, and it had heated seats. She pushed the power button and the car quietly purred.
She backed down the driveway. Soon their subdivision faded from sight and they were on the outskirts of town. Janie’s nimble fingers found the right CD and pressed play. She grinned over her shoulder at Ethan knowing he loved the kids’ praise songs that were about to play. “Sing real loud for me, okay Buddy?” Janie could see Ethan’s exaggerated nods in the rear view mirror.
It was the first stoplight on Main Street. Janie hated this corner. She and Ryan had moved from Chicago three years ago, but her pulse still quickened even in this small town. She just never felt safe, especially with Ethan in the car. She could still hear the pounding against the window and see the gun pointed at Ryan’s head. No one was hurt, but Janie’s body reacted instinctively even now.
She discreetly felt the lock to make sure it was set. Reassured, she dropped her arm into her lap, feigning casualty, remembering to focus her attention on the light. A blush warmed her cheeks. She remembered the silver ictus on her bumper.
A real Christian doesn’t act this way, Christ would be perfectly comfortable at this stoplight. Why can’t I relax? Why is this light always so long?
Janie shifted in her seat and noticed Ethan waving in the backseat. She followed his gaze to the woman outside the convenience store. Janie had seen her there before.
“Mommy, why does that lady over there have a piece of paper?” Ethan asked.
“Well, it says she’s a Mommy who needs some food for her kids. That’s all.” Janie sped up relieved the light finally blinked green.
Janie turned onto Market Street and saw a line gathering outside of the local soup kitchen. She kept meaning to volunteer there, but something always got in the way. No one chided her for it, either. She did have a little one, after all, though that didn’t ease her guilt.
“Hey Mommy?” chirped Ethan.
“Yes, Ethan, what is it?” Janie turned on her blinker as she rounded the corner onto Park Lane.
“Why were all those people standing outside that building?” asked Ethan.
“They’re hungry, Honey, and it’s a cold day. That building is warm and has food for them.” Janie watched as the city started to recede into the horizon. The earth rolled into gentle waves of green speckled with white again. She felt her shoulders relax.
Janie mentally checked off her list of things she was supposed to cover at the meeting. The new addition was a big deal; she still couldn’t believe they asked her to help design it. It was going to be a state-of-the-art hospitality wing with a coffee bar and a bookstore. It would minister to the young adults just moving to the area.
Janie pulled into the Park Lane Christian Fellowship parking lot. She unbuckled Ethan and stood him on the pavement next to the car.
“Stay right there, don’t move” Janie urged. Ethan nodded.
Janie grabbed Ethan’s backpack and set the car alarm with one hand while she grabbed Ethan’s hand with the other. “We’re in a hurry, Buddy, we need to walk fast.”
Ethan grinned, fast was good.
Inside the foyer, Janie quickly squeezed their coats between the others, then hurried Ethan into the child-care center. She slipped into the fellowship hall and found a seat at the table. Taking out her notebook she blew out a deep breath. She leaned over, and whispered to Lisa, “Phew! I almost didn’t make it. Did I miss anything?”
“He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me— you failed to do it to me.”
Matthew 25:45 The Message
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