Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FAMILY (01/21/16)
TITLE: Jesus and the Joneses
By Jody Day
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Papa had been killed in an accident on his work site. People tried to make Mama divide us kids up among the family, but Mama said her family would stay together. She got a job in her old home town so we picked up and moved. The old fashioned Welcome Wagon showed up at our door with a potted plant and an envelope full of coupons for complimentary services from the community.
“We may not have electricity for a few days, but at least we’ll have a few groceries,” Mama said. “Janice, Jane, John, Jodie, Jason, Jack and Jeffrey. Jesus has the Joneses in the palm of His hand.”
We set out on foot in a softly falling snow to redeem her coupons. Mama put sandwich baggies in our shoes to try and keep them dry for the trek.
The first stop was a grocery store, where we were awarded several bags of canned goods. Next a deli gave us a roasted chicken and package of sandwich meat. We walked around town all morning collecting welcome gifts. Mama divided the items among all of us. She carried baby Jeff on one hip and juggled groceries on the other.
My toes froze inside the sandwich bags in my holey sneakers, but I wouldn’t dare complain. It would be a chain reaction down the line, and that would make things really hard for Mama.
She hesitated outside an establishment that I now know was a bar. The coupon was for several bags of potato chips and a tin of candy. Mama looked at the coupon, bit her bottom lip, and then she looked at us.
Wait here,” she said, piling a bag of oranges on top of my already heavy burdens, and sliding Jeff’s little hand in the loops of my jeans. “Don’t let go of sister,” she said to the baby, took a deep breath and charged in.
She rushed out a few minutes later, her face red and tears streaming down her face.“Fresh,” she cried and took the baby’s hand from my belt loops and sloshed down the street.
The snow had turned to rain, and our grocery bags were getting soaked. As we made our way home, the bags began to come apart, and we were chasing canned goods through the soupy snow. As soon as we’d bend over to pick one up, another would fall from our grasp.
I could hear Mama sobbing in the rain, and although I didn’t know what “fresh” meant at the time, I was sure someone had mistreated her. My little heart prayed, “God, please help us get home, and help Mama not be sad.” I’d never felt so cold in my life.
Somehow, after what seemed like hours, we made it back to our rent house. I knew it would still be cold inside, but at least we’d be out of the rain. We piled in, nearly tripping over one another and dropping the parcels all over again. Mother plopped down among us, a pile of groceries and children.
“Mama, that chicken looks like baby Jeff without his diaper on,” said 5-year-old Jason.
Mama fished the roast chicken from the pile and held it up. She wiped her tears and a grin spanned her face. “You know, it really does.” She pulled a torn brown paper sack around the chicken and pretended to cradle it.
We erupted into uncontrolled laughing. I prayed a little thank you to God for making Mama smile. As we put the food away, we realized that we were warm. The heat was on! We never learned who had provided us that blessing, but I’ll never forget the warmth in our hearts that night after such a long, difficult day.
Mama tried to keep the Welcome Wagon alive over the years, but it eventually faded away. That didn’t keep her from taking a bag of groceries, including a roast chicken, to any newcomer she heard about in our town.
We had many good times over the years, but as I reflect on the hardest times of our lives, I know that Mama was right. Jesus had the Joneses in the palm of His hand.
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