It was early December and I was driving my children over an hour to a distant mall to do some Christmas shopping. We were finally nearing the exit that would take us there. I smiled and sang quietly along to the song playing on the radio. Then just as we pulled off I noticed a figure holding a sign at the end of the highway exit. “It is probably someone trying to catch a ride south,” I thought to myself.
When I got close enough to read it, however, I saw that it said, “Homeless. Please help. Willing to work for food.” I drove past unable to stop because of the flow of traffic to the mall. As I went past the person I saw that it was an older woman in worn, dirty clothes with an incredible sadness in her eyes.
I took my children into the mall, but all the Christmas spirit had left my heart. I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman by the exit. I couldn’t stop thinking about her standing outside in the cold, without a home, while the cars drove by her. I couldn’t stop thinking about how we as human beings could allow anyone to be homeless and hungry in this plentiful world that our Heavenly Father had created for us.
Later after we left the mall my children and I stopped at a local convenience store to buy some snacks for the long drive back home. We got in the car and I pulled out. When I got to the exit that would get us back on the highway, though, I found myself driving past it and back to the exit we had driven in on. She was still there holding her sign in the December air. I pulled off the side of the road, pulled out the money I had left in my wallet and gave it to my daughter in the seat beside me. She then rolled down her window and gave it to the sad eyed lady. The woman stood there with the money in her hand and thanked us, half not believing that someone had given her so much. Before she could finish her sentence my daughter reached out, took her hand, and gave her the food she had bought for the trip home.
We pulled back out on the highway and made small talk for the rest of the way home. None of us felt proud or even happy with what we had done. We only wished we could have done more.
I found myself praying to God for the sad eyed lady without a home. I asked Him to wrap His loving arms around her, to send her the help she needed, and to be with her always. In the end, I trusted that He would in His infinite love see her home again.
I remembered too that Jesus was born in a manger not a mansion, that He often had no place to lay His head, and that He asked us all to find him in the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the destitute. I also remembered that He asked us to love each other as He loved us. And that is what I will continue to strive to do at Christmastime and always.