Our second day in Chicago began much the same as the day before. Bill would attend the real estate conference and I would soul shop. Because of our tiny hotel room, I stayed in bed in order to give him space to dress. As I lay there, thoughts of activity on the street consumed me. He gathered his things and headed out for the day. I jumped up, threw on my jeans, brushed my teeth, and slid once again into my most comfortable pair of flats because I knew for sure that I would be on a long journey as I hit the streets of downtown Chicago. I did not want to be distracted by having to keep up with my purse so, I placed dollar bills in both front pockets of my jeans along with my room key and cell phone. The anticipation of possibly putting a name to the face of the woman whom I studied through the plate-glass window or the likes of her, gave me a sense of great joy and excitement.
I feel I must qualify myself by saying that God bestowed on me the gift of giving. However, the gift was never fully awakened in me until one afternoon while driving our oldest daughter Lauren, then eleven to her dance class. In the typical busyness of life, we ran several errands before pulling into the dance studio parking lot. One of the errands was a quick stop at the grocery store for necessities of milk, bread, and randomly, a large bag of potato chips. While our three children were growing up, I lived my days in a mad rush. Hurrying was the norm as was tuning out anyone who may be in need except the immediate family around me. Such was the case on this particular day.
After leaving the grocery store, running a few minutes late, I wheeled into the parking lot of the dance studio, expecting Lauren to jump out quickly. To my complete surprise, she grabbed the bag of chips from the grocery sack and shoved them toward me and said, “Mom, give these to that man back there on the feeder road.” I was stunned. I had not even noticed a man on the feeder road. I began to tell her why I should not give the bag of chips to the man on the feeder road. Motherly lessons warning of impending dangers spewed from my mouth. After all, had she not grasped the concept of “stranger danger” drilled into her over the years? Persistently, Lauren insisted that I give the man the bag of chips and would not get out of the car until I gave her my word. In an effort to get her into dance class, I relented with a begrudging promise to make the delivery. With my promise held in her heart, Lauren happily gathered her things and closed the car door behind.
Inconvenienced and disgruntled by my daughter’s insistent demand, I made my way back around to the other side of the freeway feeder road which was in the opposite direction of home. The intersection was very busy so I pulled off of the road. At first glance, I did not see a homeless man and felt relief of possibly not making any contact with him. The tension began to leave my body as I thought of pulling back onto the road when a glance to my left caught the man approaching my window. My heart pounded in my chest with fear and utter disbelief with the thought that I was about to come eye to eye with a person of such despairing status. I cautiously lowered my car window and insistently pushed the bag of chips toward him in the same way that Lauren had shoved it toward me. Much to my surprise, a scraggly smile took over the man’s weary face as he delightfully accepted my small contribution. As my hand released the potato chip bag into his hand, a scripture verse that I had read and heard since childhood took on life. In the book of John 21:15-17, Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved Him. When Simon Peter responded, yes, Jesus said, “feed my sheep”.
“Good morning, my name is Wanda”. She raised her head, looking up from her wheelchair, her frail hand reached up taking mine. Her warm brown eyes had a depth that represented years of street survival. “I’ve been unable to walk now for fourteen years. I have a good roof over my head but I don’t get enough to eat. I’m hungry”. The last two words of her statement pierced my heart deeply – “I’m hungry”. Tears welled in my eyes as I released her hand and reached into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out a bill to drop into her cup. In a quiet whisper she spoke the words, “God bless you”. I gently patted her on the shoulder and said, “God bless you too, Wanda.” Quickly turning with thoughts of inadequacy, I resumed my walk up the street. Kind words and a few dollars would not be all that the Lord would require of me this time. A block past the spot where Wanda sat, parked in her wheelchair, was a three-story mall with Macy’s as its anchor. In haste, I darted into Macy’s hoping to escape the inner voice requiring more of my reserved spirit. I rode the escalator to the second floor. Directly in front of me as I stepped onto the second level was a food court crowded with professionals enjoying their freshly made lunches. I paced back and forth from one food vendor to another wrestling with the all-consuming thoughts of Wanda. Her eyes had permanently seared my memory and her words whispered repeatedly in my mind, “I’m hungry”.
After fifteen minutes of inward battle and several laps around the food court, I knew my assignment was to invite Wanda to be my guest for a warm meal. The same arguments of impending danger that I used many years prior to this moment with Lauren surfaced as well as some arguments that were unique to the situation at hand. After all, what would the employees and patrons of Macy’s think if they saw me wheeling this crippled beggar into the posh store? Jesus told Simon Peter to demonstrate his love for Him by feeding His sheep. I located the elevator so that Wanda could get to the second floor of Macy’s. Resolving in my heart to be obedient to the words of Jesus, I proceeded outside to extend to Wanda my invitation to join me for lunch.