Please take time to Stop. Really Wonder. What if everything was taken away from you? Everything you come into contact with—on a daily basis—or hold dear…all the “necessities”…Gone. Would you still be thankful? Beyond a doubt…thankful?
When I was away at school I was sent to the streets of Philadelphia for a class project. Technology was ripped away from our twiddling texting thumbs, no shopping money hidden in our pockets, no identification. Hmm, how hard was it to live without these little “luxuries” for one day? On a white sheet of paper was a list of tasks we were told to accomplish; finding local shelters, food banks, job applications, etc.
For anyone who has ever passed a human being sleeping on the street & stated in a snotty naive tone…why don’t they get off the bench and just get a job? Or assumed everyone on the street is a drug addict… Maybe you should go experience a day in someone else’s shoes…and wake up.
We learned hard truths that day.
1. Finding buildings and places isn’t as easy without a map, GPS, or smart phone. (Honestly, I can’t find my way from point A to point B WITH any of those technological instruments anyways.) I need people to look me in the eye and spell it out for me in order to know confidently which way to go. Imagine you haven’t bathed in days, you’re living out of a book bag, and now you’re attempting to ask for help—we saw that day—the majority of people were not eagerly ready & willing to help a homeless stranger find their way.
2. I was turned away at McDonalds when I asked for an application. They told me if I really wanted a job—just go apply online. The only available computer was at the Public Library. In order to use the public computer you need personal identification. Another obstacle…
My group quickly became irritated & frustrated…our hearts were breaking because the day we were living—was a daily reality for so many. We gave up the white sheet of paper and decided to go to the people. Almost immediately we found a woman sitting on a bench living out of her book bag. So we took her to lunch.
NEVER forget. Everyone has a story. God is the Creator and Author of each and every life on earth. Each person you walk by on a daily basis has a past and is living a present.
I’m easily intrigued by people. I was so ready to dive in and hear this young lady tell us her story. We ended up squeezing into a local Chinese restaurant. She began to speak…stopping every so often to whisper a thanks for her warm meal…we quickly learned, she had lost everything. She was laid off from her job then kicked out after not being able to pay the rent. No family. She started sleeping in the subways at night because the streets were too dangerous. The police kicked her out of the subway one night and told her no one was allowed to sleep there. She ended up getting jumped on the streets. And beat up intensely. She lost all personal identification. Where was she to go? How could she find help? This is someone with an education. She never did drugs. She wasn’t crazy. The world loves to dig disgusting and destructive lies into us—trying to stick her with names…lazy. No good. Dirty. Worthless…
What lies are you being told today by the enemy? What are people trying to stick onto you? Remember God is the one who has written your story. He can return you to the name you were always meant to have if you choose to listen to the right voice.
This Courageous woman didn’t let the enemy tear her down. Every Sunday she found her way into a church. She was ecstatic that for the one night she wasn’t going to bed hungry because we had assured her a nice comforting meal. Hands Full. Hands Empty. Thankful.
As I’m writing this memory down I am sitting in a moldy classroom with one window. The room is infested with ladybugs ( I HATE BUGS. ALL BUGS—including “cute” bugs like butterflies and ladybugs or fireflies). I find myself—today—like so many other days wondering why I am sitting here—right here in this desk? What am I doing with my time—with my life? Am I doing enough? That day I came across ONE story. One heart. And that ONE was so very heavy. There is hurting, heartache and struggling in this huge world we live in. I don’t ever want to become comfortable. No apathy. There’s no time to waste. I know God has me here…in this bug-infested classroom…for such a time as this. Am I showing people Jesus in the here and now? Are you? My name means Joy & my middle name means…Joy…I want God to use me—to name me—in such a way that people are drawn & attracted to HIM. Completely consumed. Hands Full or Hands Empty. Ann Voskamp, author of 100 Gifts, declares, “Learn it like I know my skin, my face, the words on the end of my tongues…Learn how to be thankful—whether empty or full (47).” I want to learn, live, and be on the inside & out…Truly Thankful.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, HANDS FULL or HANDS EMPTY. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…” Philippians 4: 11-13 The Message