A sleepy Malachi curled up by the fire at 8 am Friday morning. Why on earth I had arranged such an early dental appointment for the best sleeper in the house baffled me. Our prompt 8:30 am arrival revealed the strange truth that though I'd been reminded three times, the 10:30 am appointment had stuck in my mind incorrectly!
"Home? or coffee, groceries and the bookstore?" I announced to my cheerful companion, as his fervent nod answered the obvious.
The tantalizing aroma of ginger, cinnamon and chai invited us into the warm, energized atmosphere of a nearby coffee shop. We settled down into a nook sharing the only chair available. Malachi munched gingerbread and I enjoyed a steaming latte, a sweet contrast to the original plan of dental work.
En route to the grocery store we noticed a stranger carrying a cardboard sign. The chance to offer a bit of sidewalk hospitality entered our unexpected free hours and we welcomed it. With our own groceries tucked away, we placed our extra special bag containing hot chili, fresh bread, juice, oatmeal cookies, chocolate and mints ("You know Mommy, he probably has no time to brush his teeth", voiced Malachi, particularly aware of dental hygiene this morning!) in the passenger seat.
Our errand was suddenly interrupted by another sign-carrying person, this time not a stranger. J was headed for the opposite corner and I've met her many times. I know what she likes and I know what she grieves. She is broken and broken people often speak in fragmented truth, for the source from which they draw is usually fueled by wounds never allowed to heal. Where human love was scarce with J, I believe hurts were plentiful and perhaps, still are. Her words must be sorted and as I listen, I must retain the good, releasing the not-so-good. I choose to recognize her through eyes of love and compassion, speaking value into her spirit, while I offer what I can. Only God can fuel us to listen in this way, His way. J has been away for many weeks and I'd been worried, I believed the chili was meant for her. Incidentally, this is the first time I had introduced my younger children to a homeless person. Since my interactions with J have been many, and we were in an open area, I allowed Malachi to meet her. He was polite yet confused that the stranger across the way would possibly remain hungry.
So off again we went. This time we grabbed fast food, with dessert and coffee to be our offering for the original recipient. Malachi sat in the car as I approached the stranger only 10 feet away. His face was radiant and kind, different from any homeless friend I've ever met. His thankfulness for the meal overflowed and I almost felt embarrassed by it. He spoke of his love for Jesus and though his life was not as he'd planned, his opportunities were wide to share his source of joy and proclaim that this life is short, while eternity awaited; joy forever, no more tears, no more struggle. His earnestness moved me for he spoke not in zealous words of an eccentric revivalist, his were quiet thoughts spoken from a life of surrender, without a single word of complaint or fear. Just before leaving, I asked him if he needed anything. His immediate response was, "A NIV Study Bible, someone took mine and though I have a King James, I just miss the other."
Yes, amazingly, our plan to fulfill his request was already in place. So it was no surprise when there was not only the exact Bible he had requested (at a regular bookstore), but pens, highlighters, the breath mints and a lovely cover into which everything fit.
We drove back to the spot, parked and hand in hand, Malachi and I ran up to the corner. I placed the covered Bible into the hands of Mr. P. "What's this?" he asked bewildered. "Your Bible of course", I voiced, excited at the quick outcome of our errand. Mr. P gripped the Bible to his chest and began to sob, "I've got my sword back!" he whispered, as I hugged this amazing man. He shook Malachi's hand and told him it was the best gift he'd received all year. "Who are you?", he asked. "Malachi and Grace, and we'll see you again!" I called, as we hurried to our next appointment!