This week, our daughter, Lauren sent a photo via text message.  The caption read:  “Just found this.  No telling what’s inside.  We are now carrying a mason jar full of cash, which is in the car for the homeless men at the stoplights.”   I had to zoom in on the photo to read fully the message written on the side of a white 5-gallon bucket with a sealed lid, in purple marker.  Our now, seven-year-old granddaughter, Kiersten, had obviously written it with great care, “for the orphans”.   Kiersten has felt the need to give to orphans and the hungry ever since a baby chick entered her life on a beautiful Easter Sunday when I stepped out on a limb as a grandparent.   On a whim, I decided to give our two grandchildren baby chicks for a fun Easter surprise.


Lauren and her husband, Neil along with our grandchildren, Kiersten and Gatlin lived in an urban subdivision where farm animals are not allowed.  Being found out by one of the rule-abiding neighbors would surely mean a ticket from animal control and probably an appearance in the city court before the judge.  However, worse than my fear of those particular consequences, was the fear of my son-in-law who was raised in the same type neighborhood environment and did not fully understand or appreciate the connection that our family has with farm animals.  He was surely going to be less than tolerant of my decision to present two live chicks to his children without his consent.

As severe as the possible outcome could be, I made the decision to go forward without the prior knowledge of Neil or Lauren.  I decided I would simply ask for forgiveness after the camera caught both of my precious grandchildren’s smiles of delight when they opened the Chinese take-out boxes containing colored plastic grass and peeping, yellow, fuzzy balls of wonder.  There is nothing more joyful to me than watching their faces light up over something that I do for them.  Kiersten was 5 at the time and Gatlin was 2.  This could be the perfect plan or the perfect storm and only after giving them their gifts would the plan or storm be revealed.

I handed the children each, a small box and made sure that the talented photographer, Pappy was ready to capture the moment – a joyous occasion, or “Murder on Tenth Street”.  As Kiersten and Gatlin opened the white folded boxes, little did any of us know what would be in store in the future.  After all, I was only giving them chicks to bring myself pleasure at the sight of their excitement but God had a plan to use this moment in a way that none of us could have ever imagined.



Neil embraced the Easter chicks with skepticism but jumped right in to support his children by building a chicken coop decked out with laying boxes, warmer lights and heavy duty lumber for protection from neighborhood dogs and cats.  The chicks grew, as did my chicks, Kiersten and Gat.  With all of the growth taking place, Lauren and Neil decided to move to a larger house with acreage where the chicken operation continued to expand from two chicks to ten fat, fluffy laying hens.



The job of feeding, watering, and gathering eggs is the responsibility of Kiersten and Gat.  They take their chicken care very seriously.  Kiersten believes that her chickens are “the happiest chickens in the world” and that her chicken’s eggs are “better than medicine”.  The hens produce four to five eggs per day.  The egg production has developed into many cash paying customers who enjoy the range-free, golden yolked eggs that are hand delivered to their door with love.  Having exposure to orphan care and the homeless due to their Pappy’s work with orphans in Bogota, Colombia, and their parent’s instruction of scripture, Kiersten’s and Gatlin’s hearts grow daily with the love of Christ and His love for orphaned children and others in need.  As they receive payment for their deliveries, Kiersten and Gatlin give all but the amount that it takes to buy replacement chicken feed to orphan care and feeding the homeless.



Next week, fifty orphans will receive school supplies in Bogota.  The orphans will be unaware that God used two baby chicks and two small children in Magnolia, Texas who were willing to cast their bread on water by selling eggs door to door to bless them with much needed educational tools.  While the 5-gallon bucket remains sealed, I am certain that the inside contains gifts to orphans from children in America who began to listen to the voice of God when they set their eyes on baby chicks in Chinese take-out boxes on Easter Sunday two years ago.




Feeding Marva

Excuse me, mam!  Excuse me!  I slowly raised my head out of the cardboard box that I was digging through in my garage hoping that I was only imagining the voice I heard calling.  My whole day was planned.   My schedule was packed and there was no margin for any type of interruption.   I reluctantly turned around to face the street.  Standing at the end of the driveway about 25 yards away was a tall, middle-aged woman holding the handle bars to her bicycle along with two shopping bags.  She was looking directly at me as she continued to motion with her hand wanting me to come closer.

We moved about two months ago from my once small hometown, Katy, Texas to inner city Houston known as The Heights.  Our new neighborhood is located one mile north of Interstate 10, one mile east of the 610 loop, and one mile west of Interstate 45.   In Katy, Bill and I lived in the heart of the city and thought that we lived among diverse people.  However, moving to The Heights has taken my definition of diversity to a whole new level.  The first week in our new home, reality hit as one night, I heard the strange clinking of something rolling down the street.  I ran to the window and passing by our house, illuminated only by the streetlights was a man pushing a grocery cart with what appeared to be his personal belongings.  I have since observed that our street is his regular route from point A to point B and back to point A at night.   He never slows but keeps a steady pace, putting one large foot in front of the other as though he is on mission.  I have also learned that the neighbors refer to him only as  “The Commuter”.   The neighbors are content to leave him be every evening during his commute.   I, on the other hand, wish to learn his real name and his story…

“Mam, my name is Marva.”  The clean, neatly dressed woman continued.  “I have three young children. “ “We haven’t had any gas to heat our house since before Christmas.”  “Rats are biting my children at night and our house is infested with roaches.”  “Will you please help me?”  Marva took and deep breath, hung her head, looking to the ground and said,  “Mam, could you please spare something to eat?”  “I’ll eat anything. “ “Please, Mam, I’m so hungry.”  My mind could not grasp all that she was trying to tell me in her desperation.  I tried to sort out what I was hearing with compassion, thinking of this poor woman begging to feed her children and keep them warm while at the same time, I was fighting the urge to run into my house, lock the door, draw the curtains, and pull the covers over my head!

Matthew 25:35 reads:  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I knew in my heart the right thing for me to do at that moment was to invite Marva to park her bicycle on the sidewalk and help her carry her bags up the steps onto the front porch of my house.  I pulled a chair around and asked her to sit down.  Once again, she reminded me that she was hungry so I excused myself and went inside in search of something substantial.  After a few minutes of going in and out of the house visiting with her and cooking, I emerged with a bacon and egg sandwich and a bottle of cold water.  She was delighted!  As she ate, I probed her about her faith in God to which she admitted that where she comes from, in order to survive, she has to have faith in God.  Gnawing on a piece of bacon with her yellowed broken teeth, she gave a half grin and assured me that God does provide.

Marva and I enjoyed our time together as we closed the gap this day on the hungry and the well fed.  Together we held our heads high in diversity as we sat, soaking up the sunshine, both counting our blessings for God’s interruption of schedule and provision of food.


The Weight of the World and a Sack of Corn

When I returned to Wanda to extend an invitation for lunch, she had a look of surprise on her face.  I approached her wheelchair and leaned over to block the noise of the busy downtown street.  Passers-by stepped around as I pressed closer to her.   I said, “Wanda, I would like you to be my guest for lunch today.” Her mouth opened suddenly as if to say something but no words came from her lips.  Again, she tried to speak. This time, just the word, “really?” uttered in a quiet, gentle tone.  She gazed in total disbelief.  I said, “the Lord told me to invite you to lunch.  Would you like to go?”  I was now focused on the smile that dominated her face.  Wanda’s smile was much like the one I remembered on the face of the homeless man that I first encountered many years ago as I passed a bag of potato chips to him through the car window.  I could tell by her reaction that she was having thoughts of what joining me for lunch might be like and truly desired to accept my invitation.

Chicago Artist - Spreading Cheer

My eyes quickly surveyed Wanda.  In the brief time that I stood in front of her chair, I was reminded of the hard life she must live. This poor, vulnerable, woman was weighted down by the plight of being handicapped, unable to work and dependent on others for her daily bread.  Her crippled legs were wrapped in elastic support stockings.  Through the stockings I could see her twisted and useless feet.  Her hair was short with streaks of gray and the defining lines around her eyes and mouth were prominent.  Wanda lowered her small cup onto her tattered blanket covered lap, took a deep breath and relaxed for a brief second as if she were relieved to see something or someone that offered a little hope.

Colliers Banner

Still smiling, she said, “I sure do thank you but I can’t go with you”.  She peered over the side of her chair and pointed with her eyes to the large sack that sat on the ground next to her.  “You see”, she said, someone brought this big sack of corn and left if for me today.  It’s heavy.”   I looked around her wheelchair and noticed several other bags hanging from the handles.  It was apparent that it was going to be a huge effort for Wanda to pack up her bags and blankets which resembled a small campsite, to go into the mall. At that point, I looked at her and asked what she would like for me to deliver to her for lunch.  “I sure would appreciate a sandwich from Walgreens.  Yes, that sure would be delicious.”  Walgreens was only a few yards away from where I stood.  My initial thought was how awful that she would consider a packaged sandwich from Walgreens a delicious meal.  I prodded her for what I thought would be a better choice.  When I realized that she was not going to offer an alternative, I told her that I would return shortly with her lunch.  She said, “If I’m not here when you get back, I’ll be just down the street.  Sometimes they make me move from this spot”. I assured her that I would not be gone long and that if she were not there, I would look until I found her.

Quote etched in granite on the front of the Chicago Tribune building

I decided that a Walgreens prepackaged sandwich would not be fitting for such a dear soul and found myself pointed back to the Macy’s food court for something fresh and hot.  Arriving on the second floor where the food court was located, I purchased a freshly made sandwich, a warm container of minestrone soup, an apple and a drink.  Pushing through the crowd of shoppers and making my way once again to the street, I felt disappointed that Wanda was not able to join me.  Shortly, Wanda came into site, exactly where I had left her.  The sun shone brightly overhead making a shadow on the concrete of a poor, crippled beggar.  There in the shadow was a woman named Wanda, who with dignity, was sitting in her wheelchair with a cup in hand.  I delivered her lunch, which, she was very grateful to have and said good-bye leaving behind my new friend with the weight of the world and a sack of corn.

A Portrait of the Poor on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

Today is not my first experience on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.  I first walked the mile a year ago when Bill had a real estate conference to attend.  Neither one of us had any ideas about Chicago and couldn’t wait to search out all that the city had to offer.  When we arrived on that winter day in 2010, my senses were awakened to many of life’s greatest pleasures.  There were beautifully designed buildings of award-winning architecture on every site line, some very old historical buildings and some, more contemporary in style.  The delectable smell of Chicago style “dogs” with the aroma of kraut, and deep-dish pizza caught my attention on more than one city block.  The hustle and bustle of inner city life was a buzz in every form.  Taxicabs colored the streets with gold, and red, double-decked buses cruised tourist around the city of ten million with their deafening microphone announcements of every site of interest that a person could take in on an afternoon tour while being exposed to the very cold elements from atop a bus.

Chicago's Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is indeed magnificent in every sense of the word.  It is one of Chicago’s claims to fame as it boasts a full mile of shopping in over 400 of America’s most well known stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, and not one but, two Macy’s – one on either end of the mile long stretch of shopper’s paradise.  I believe Macy’s wanted to be certain they captured every potential spender either on her way up or down “the mile”.   We strolled along taking in the sites.  I could see beads of sweat forming on Bill’s brow in the fifty-degree temperature.  As I observed the sweat phenomenon taking over, I knew for sure it was time to take him to the hotel and away from the singing of cash registers.  I was certain that once he was confined in the room, away from anything that looked or sounded like moldy money leaving his pocket, he would surely recover.  With an obvious case of anxiety taking over my dear husband, we went back to the hotel to allow him a time of recovery.  I was very accommodating to him as I silently mapped out in my head the experience that I would allow myself without him, the following day, while he attended the conference.

Downtown Chicago
The Chicago River - Downtown Chicago

The next morning, when I was sure that Bill was far, far away from my new-found paradise, I slid into my most comfortable pair of shoes and weighted my purse down with green and plastic.  There would be nothing to stop me this day!  In my mind, Chicago had no idea what was about to storm its street.  I was about to run the mile in record-breaking shopper speed.   However, as I left the hotel, I realized I had a false start.  The stores would not be opened for a few more minutes.

Just outside the hotel, was a quaint coffee shop where I could stay warm while waiting for the starter gun to sound.   I went inside, placed my order and pulled a chair up next to a large, plate-glass window that exposed the tantalizing view of my dream world.  I had just settled in with my warm cup of coffee when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman sitting on the sidewalk.  It was obvious to me that she was in need.  She was dirty.  Her clothes didn’t match and were torn.  She held a small Styrofoam cup in her brown, stained hands in hopes of hearing the plink of a coin falling from time to time.   I intently studied the woman’s face.  Her lips were cracked and her skin was wrinkled and dry from the cold.  She had shallow eyes with dark circles.  Her head hung slightly and her shoulders slumped as though she carried shame.  Many, many people passed by.  They walked around her, behind and in front without acknowledgment.  I sat in disbelief as I watched the number of people who passed, simply ignoring her.  I sipped my coffee and stoically observed all of those who turned a blind eye and deaf ear to this poor woman calling for help.  How could this happen?  How did she get here?  What’s her name?  Does anyone see her?  Why is she seemingly invisible?   I sat in confusion pondering these thoughts over in my mind and the more I thought, the more I could feel my ideas of shopping taking on a new image.  I could feel my interest in the bargain basement waning.  Thoughts of Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Gucci and the likes began to fade into the background of the portrait of the poor, who ironically sit, begging for a single coin on the very street where daily, cash registers sing.