As we get older I think we really come to grips with certain truths about ourselves. I, for example, am a dreamer and forever optimist. My mind is constantly spinning and my ideas are larger than life. I’ve never met someone I didn’t give the benefit of the doubt-even if deep down I know they are probably not as nice as they seem. Most days I get out of bed and feel like with enough Jesus and coffee, I can CHANGE THE WORLD. But, in keeping true to who I am, I rarely follow through with all the great plans I have. I am horrible at keeping a schedule and like to fly by the seat of my pants. Schedules actually give me hives (or something like that). That said, I milk every second of every day, terrified of wasting even the slightest moment sitting still or not being “busy”. I’ve tried to change it, believe me, I have. It drives my sweet husband crazy and makes things much more chaotic than they should be. But, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s part of what makes me who I am. I guess you could say I’m more of a Martha than a Mary. I am really, really good at spontaneity however. Couple my spontaneous personality with my heart that I like to wear on my sleeve and you have a random-act-of-kindness machine!
Helping others is my happy place and anytime I see a situation that I think could use a little kindness, I jump in and try to spread the love of Jesus. As such, I am 100% the person who gives everything in my wallet to the homeless people on the exit ramps holding the signs. I’ve been criticized for it more than I’ve been told, “way to go”. I’ve read the articles about all the “homeless” people who are actually raking in more money than my family makes honestly and yet I still continue to give. I have always reasoned with myself that there is no way I can know their situation. I imagine a very sad story to go along with the face I see begging for money. I tell myself it must be true because no self-respecting person would beg for money unless they had to. I remind myself that even if they do something dishonest with the money God searches the condition of my heart and motives and I will be rewarded for my actions. I have always told myself all these things but I had never really been faced with someone who was actually a liar and a thief.
On our way home from vacation we stopped at a little town in Georgia to make a coffee run. There was a particularily frail looking older woman on the exit ramp holding a cardboard sign. She looked especially lost and downtrodden-like she had truly given up on life. I stared at her and my heart began to bleed. I wondered what her story was and how she wound up on the side of the road. I wondered if anyone had ever told her about a man named Jesus. Nick pulled off in search of coffee mid-thought and that was it. I went in to get our coffee and when i came out, Nick saw me glance over my shoulder toward the exit. As we were driving away he quietly says, “what do you want to do? Give her some money?” Before I can open my mouth he sighs and says, “okay, that’s fine. I know you do. I’ll go up to the next exit and you can run in and get some cash and we will go back.” I smiled and silently thanked God for giving me this man who knows and accepts me just as I am. I began feverishly looking for a bag to put snacks from our trip in. The kids helped me find a Wal-Mart bag and I began emptying out our snacks. Luke had packed a bible from the house so I put it in there too. I even dug into our suitcase and got out all the travel shampoos and lotions from the trip to put in the bag. After I got the money, Nick got back on the interstate and got off on the ramp. We prayed for her and talked to the kids about why it was important to help this random lady. By this point it had begun to sprinkle and I was in a panic thinking about this older woman having nowhere to go in the rain. Much to my dispair, the lady wasn’t there when we got off the ramp. Nick drove up the road to turn around and that’s when we saw her. She was walking, at a much faster, more confident pace and she reached in her coat pocket, pulled out her keys and got into a nice car. A nice car with a really nice ladder on the top. My husband doesn’t even have a ladder. Seeing this took my breath away. I immediately began to make excuses for her. Maybe she’d borrowed the car, maybe she was terminally ill and needed the money even though she had a car. Maybe she lived in her car. But the truth was that she was probably driving to her house in another town, in her nice car with her nice ladder. Everything was probably nice but her.
Nick immediately began to lecture me about the dangers of trusting people and giving money away. I’d like to say I took his lecture to heart but I didn’t. My mind was already deep in thought on the complexity of the situation. Ava began to ask questions about why on Earth someone would lie and take our money. I had no child-like explanation for her. I finally settled on telling her that not everyone has a heart like we do. I was frustrated that I was having to explain it to the kids in the first place. I was angry that they might be led to believe that you can’t do nice things for people because they aren’t deserving or honest. My feelings were hurt because I was getting lectured for my ‘niavity’ by my precious husband who sits back and lets me give our money away to strangers on a regular basis. I’ll admit that for a moment I thought I was foolish and should have known better than to trust people. But it was just for a moment. I thought about that woman much of the way home and in the days that followed. And you know what? The experience gave me the opportunity to pray for her. To reach out to God on her behalf. Ava continued asking a few questions about her. I had to examine how I would approach these situations in the future. You’ll never believe what I decided. I decided that the momentary anger I felt is what is desensitizing our nation. I refuse to let the momentary emotions overshadow who I am and what I can do for the kingdom of Heaven. Why do we give, after all? God’s word has many things to say about giving.
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
And these are just a few of the commands. You will notice it never says give if you think they are deserving or give after you have judged and decided they are honest. Nope. I have decided that giving has nothing to do with the person being given to. For me, giving is a matter of my heart. A true reflection of what lives inside of me. More than that, it is a command from God and my heart’s desire is to be obedient to him. What the devil meant to knock the wind out of my sails has only strengthened my resolve. My implusive nature and tender heart is a gift. I may not be able to plan the most elaborate prayer meeting or volunteer on a daily basis but I can complete random acts of kindness with reckless abandon…and that is just what I will continue to do. Thanks, not-so-homeless lady for such an awesome lesson.