Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STORM (10/05/17)
- TITLE: Homeless in a Time of Storm
By Sandra Fischer
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Green. I make the turn, but do not head home. I circle back and pull to a stop near the car, open my window. A tall overweight woman steps from the car. I take in the stained top covering her braless torso, her ragged shorts, bare feet. She lumbers toward me, bends down, eyes squinting. Solemn face.
I extend my hand with a fast food gift card I keep in my purse. “I hope this can help,” I barely hear my own voice.
“Thank you, ma’am.” Her voice and lips are even as she takes the card.
As I pull away, I see her in my rear-view mirror, walking slowly toward her car, head down.
Home. I unload the Walmart bags. Fresh meat, fruit, vegetables. Soap, shampoo, toilet paper. A thanksgiving table decoration. Outside the kitchen window, I see dark clouds approaching. In me, the storm is already raging, torrents of guilt pelting my heart.
Questions flood my mind. How did she come to that? Was it a hurricane, a wildfire, tornado? A husband who left or one she left? What kind of life storm—within or without made her Homeless? Does it matter what brought her there, what brings me to where I am?
I open the fridge and the cool air meets me, soothes me. I start to make space for new fare. The shelves are full—glutted with food; three different jars of pickles, two preserves, various bottles of condiments, more. I stare at a container of leftovers, spoiling. The storm resumes.
How do you live in a car? No stove, no toilet, no bed, no fridge. No leftovers.
I shut the fridge door and collapse at the kitchen table. Tears come easily, mingling with the rain falling outside and with the thoughts assailing me. I recall Jesus words, “whatever you did for one of the least of these. . .you did for me.”
I wonder. Would You have liked a fast food gift card? What should I have done? What can I do?
Sunday’s sermon comes to mind. I remember Pastor sharing how we can serve the needs of others in many ways. I recall one—a Community Coalition supported by our church that provides food, clothing, counseling and respite for those in need.
I retrieve the church bulletin from the recycle bin, find the information and write it down. It’s hope in my hand as I go back to my car.
I drive the miles back to Walmart, as the sky bursts open, drenching the world. I circle the parking lot in search for the Homeless car, peering through the steamy windshield between the beating wipers. As I approach the space, my heart beats in tandem. A car comes into view. It’s not Homeless. It’s a shiny, silver empty SUV.
Where has she gone? Is she safe? Did someone else help her?
Home again. I sink into a chair by the window, watching clouds move on northward. Droplets fall from longleaf pine to a ground covered by limbs and straw, remnants of the squall. I think about storms. They come to all of us. And, they go. We’re not assured what kind or when or how they come or what havoc they may bring. I think of Jesus, who had the power to calm them, who told us we would experience them and that we should help one another through them.
I don’t know where you are, Homeless. I pray you are safe and someone is helping to meet your needs today. I may not see you again, but I know there are others like you seeking refuge.
Sun streams through the window, evaporating rain-spots, clearing the view. I look at the hope note still clutched in my hand. I reach for the phone and punch numbers. A cheerful voice answers, “Community Coalition, how can I help you?”
That’s my question. She listens to my story, then asks if I have pencil and paper ready to list ways to serve those caught in life's storms.
I answer yes.
I recall an old hymn and I title the list, “Ways to be a Shelter in a Time of Storm”.
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