Dashing into 7-11 this morning, I grabbed a coffee for a friend and headed to the diet soda dispenser for myself. A familiar homeless lady stood at the machine, teaching so many object lessons with her very existence.
Everyone in our urban/suburb town knows Nora. She always wears a toboggan hat, even in today's 80-degree weather. The plastic tag is still hanging from the top of the yellow knit hat. Although obviously a female, several whiskers protrude from her chin and many wrinkles surround her eyes. Even in the dead of summer, she appears overdressed wearing many layers. Although some homeless people can seem off-putting at times, she is quiet but friendly to any who engage her.
A Minor Crisis
I quickly discern she is having trouble retrieving a lid from the dispenser. In her left arm and hand, she clutches the free Senior Beacon Newspaper, a spiral-bound notebook and other items. She is trying fruitlessly to use her right hand to free a lid from the tightly packed sleeve of lids. Partially out of kindness and partially trying to get her need met so I can get my Diet Pepsi, I ask if I can help.
"Oh, certainly," she said sweetly.
"Let me put that on for you," I said after retrieving the lid.
"Thank you." She looked up at me with just a hint of hope in her eyes.
My brief interaction with Nora nearly brought me to tears because her obvious brokenness is on display for everyone to see. I often wonder what combination of choices and life circumstances brought her to this place of wandering the streets, perhaps in the throes of mental illness?
People in our town have done much to accommodate Nora's mental issues. One man lets her park her shopping cart in his garage. Another buys her breakfast at 7-11. She always tries to retrieve change from her pocket, but the clerk tells her "No, it's taken care of." Others get her out of the cold in the worst part of Winter.
Although Nora's life dysfunction is obvious, how many of us walk around nearly as broken inside as Nora? Are we more than a couple of months away from losing a job and plunging into financial chaos? Could some family tragedy quickly lead us to a dark, broken mental place?
Jesus Makes the Difference
The difference for Christians is Jesus. Our caring Shepherd wants to watch over us and save us from evil, catastrophe and ourselves. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Oh how I pray that Nora can find this salvation.
Though we are sometimes driven to the brink by life's circumstances, we trust in One who is able to deliver us regardless of the situation. As we contemplate Memorial Day and the sacrifices of others, let's not forget the sacrifice Jesus made to permanently save us from our sins. His blood covers all of our wrong choices and His mercy is everlasting.