The other day I had an ordinary experience that was extraordinary. Aren’t they all? The story is a simple one and perhaps not unlike stories you have lived.
She said her name was Melinda. I was having coffee with a friend when a downcast and weary twenty-something-year-old girl, I mean lady (please forgive me, my daughter, though much the same age, is still my girl) approached our table and asked for help getting something to eat. She had a sweet spirit, but I hesitated. I know this scam.
“Don’t you have a job?”
“No, but I’m looking.”
“Where do you live?”
“Where are you from?”
“New York.” She started to open up. “My boyfriend and I just came down to Atlanta. I’m pregnant.” I didn’t see any boyfriend.
“Do you have family here?”
“Yes, but that didn’t work out. We’re sleeping on the street—last night on a park bench.”
It was a gut punch. Someone’s daughter. It’s just not right.
I held one end of the bill; she patiently held the other, as I looked her in the eye and said, “You’re getting food, right?”
“Yes,” she answered meekly, pulling up toil-worn sleeves to prove she “wasn’t no addict.” Other physical indications hinted there might be other nightmare drugs besides intravenous ones. I didn’t press the matter.
She went across the way to get her lunch and came back ten minutes later with my change. Good sign.
I told her to keep the change so she could get another meal later. No great pat on the back for me. I wanted to do so much more, but on the spot couldn’t think of which direction to point her. I only knew I was supposed to keep the dialogue going and she didn’t seem in any hurry. So I continued:
“Where will you sleep tonight?”
“A man offered his apartment….”
“Be careful,” I interrupted, feeling exactly like a father. Her faint appreciative smile told me she picked up on the feeling.
“Oh, I don’t think I’ll stay there,” she defended, then patted her stomach, adding, “I have the baby to take care of, and I don’t make money like that.” Till then that thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
I let it pass and asked, point blank, “Do you know Jesus?” (Now you’re getting somewhere, Kevin.)
“Oh yes. I believe in Jesus. And I’m a good person.”
“Yes, I know you are. Since Jesus is your Savior then you are a good person because He lives in your heart at the deepest part of you.” (Careful, Kevin, not too strong.)
“Yes, I believe in Jesus,” she repeated, both to herself and to me.
“Me too.” I could tell she was waiting for more, but I ran out of words. I felt so inadequate for the task.
(A quick silent prayer: Jesus, what else should I say?)
Instantly I heard myself being fatherly again:
“Follow the beacons God puts in your life. They’re there to guide you. Don’t follow the impostors who don’t have His light…and be careful.”
She hugged me. It was real. Then she left. And just like that we were done.
As it all unfolded I knew I’d likely never see her again this side of Heaven, and I kicked myself throughout for not being better prepared to help her. But I also knew, the moment she walked away, that in my heart my connection to her had just begun. That’s it, my story—my ordinary extraordinary experience. And now I pray for Melinda.
I hope this encourages you to pray for those souls who come into your life today. While you’re at it, please pray for Melinda, too.
© 12/01/2015 All rights reserved