(“Faith” Assignment for my Graduate class: “Feed and clothe a homeless person”)
At the beginning of the course, upon reading this assignment, I prayed, “Lord, I often feed people by providing meals to those who have had surgery or lost a loved one. I also donate clothes that don’t fit or I don’t want anymore to thrift stores that clothe the homeless, but I really want to clothe and feed a homeless person, someone on the street. Will you provide that opportunity for me? I want to know them, really see the need and specifically meet it. Provide that opportunity for me in the next two weeks.” Periodically throughout those two weeks I would send up a “reminder prayer” to the Lord. “Lord, my assignment is due soon. I know it’s not about me, but I really want to help someone. Did I miss the opportunity? Did you provide it for me but I was too busy to notice? Forgive me Lord if I did give me another chance and help me see it and respond. Help me have a heart like Yours.”
Earlier today, the day before my assignment was due, I went to visit my daughter working at Chick-Fil-a. As I pulled up, I saw her in the parking lot with the paramedics loading a very large woman into the fire rescue truck. Avery caught my eye and looked very sad. She told me later that the woman, Patricia, was in the restaurant and requested she call 911 for her because her legs hurt. Avery sat with Patricia waiting for fire rescue to come and learned that she was homeless but was waiting for her sister to wire her some money. As she told me the story, I thought that maybe I should go to the hospital to see how I might help her but then thought better of it knowing they probably did not admit her and I wouldn’t be able to find her. Later that night, Avery and I went shopping. We were about 6 miles south of Chick-Fil-a on the same road when we both noticed a very large woman wrapped in a bed sheet. Initially she was siting on a bench at the bus stop, but then stood up and opened the sheet. She was completely naked! We both gasped and Avery yelled “That’s Patricia!” I quickly pulled into the next parking lot and we sat in the car gasping for breath. We couldn’t believe what we just saw. The sight of a huge naked woman was shocking enough but that we knew the women was mind blowing! Trying to organize our thoughts, I parked the car, turned off the ignition and said, “We’re going to pray.” I struggled to pray, not knowing how or what to do, so I just told God that. “Lord, we just saw the same woman who was in Chick-Fil-a today. She is naked, homeless, and sitting at a bus stop. What do we do? We can’t just leave her there. What do we do?” I decided to drive my car closer and Avery and I got out to talk to her. Avery was so sweet, friendly and gentle with her. She asked her if she remembered her. Patricia replied, “Yes, you are Avery from Chick-fil-a.” She told us of her transport to the hospital and that she threw away her dress because it was dirty. She asked us to go to Target, buy her a size 4x dress and she had $4. Conveniently placed was a mall with several stores so we were able to buy her several dresses and undergarments. We also purchased some bananas, apples, oranges, carrots and a fruit drink, thinking she has access to food but not healthy food. We found her on the bus bench right where we left her. She was excited to see what we brought her and helped her get dressed. She dropped the sheet and stood up completely naked while we got the dress on her. She squealed with delight “I love it! It’s beautiful!” My eyes began to water, trying to hide my tears so that I didn’t embarrass her, I agreed with her. Avery was amazing with her. She told her how beautiful she looked and that the color was perfect on her. She continued with offering the fruit drink and some carrots. As they sat and chatted we found out that indeed her sister was to wire her $200 tomorrow. When we asked where she was going tonight she replied “I’m sleeping right here. I’ll be safe. Tom over there (she pointed to a valet across the street at a restaurant) will watch me and make sure I am ok for the night.” We asked why she didn’t go to the shelter but avoided talking about it. She seemed to know a lot of people and her surroundings well and even spoke about a former job she had with the police department. All the while I stood and listened as Avery asked her questions and loved on her. My heart was breaking and I was trying so hard to hold back the tears. Before we parted Avery held her hand and prayed for her. We were comforted to know that her mind seemed sensible, her thoughts stable. She was able to recall Avery’s name and earlier events of the day. She even told us that tomorrow is Sunday and she was going to church which she named. Apparently they help her with food and put her in a hotel sometimes. Walking away from her was very difficult. I felt like my heart was shattered in a million pieces, knowing we did all we could for her was not enough. I wondered what brought her to this point in her life, who hurt her, would she die on the streets? As soon as I got in the car the tears came, my heart ached for her. We drove home in silence then realized that God had answered my prayer; He brought a homeless person for me to clothe and feed today. Some how that brought me peace, God’s design. But my heart still aches knowing I get to sleep in a warm clean bed tonight and Patricia doesn’t.
Lord Jesus, thank you for bringing Patricia to me today, for letting me share this with Avery. Thank you for Avery’s compassion and strong spirit that not only loved on her, clothed and feed her, but also made sure she knew You as well. Protect Patricia Lord and all those who don’t have a safe place to sleep tonight. In Jesus Name, Amen.