What I am going to write about right now is the kind of thing I usually don’t share. I think that when you give, it should be in private. I try to keep my charitable acts between me, the Lord, and the recipient, unless it is possible to act anonymously. But I am going to tell you about something I did and how it changed me.
Santa Barbara is full of people asking for money. With Adama being directly across from the Salvation Army Hospitality Center, and with its close proximity to lower State Street, neediness is all around me. The huge undertaking and the financial stress of Adama has opened my eyes to how easy it would be to suddenly lose everything. As I walk down State, I often ask the Lord to show me who the hungry are. The young adventurers who are on a year-long trek living on the streets by choice don’t tug at my heart. I think that what they are doing is a great experience, however I think that they should work a few years and save up for it. Someone else didn’t choose, and that is who I want to help.
A few months ago, I was on line in the market. In front of me was a middle-aged woman, pushing a wire cart stuffed with belongings, and purchasing a can of ravioli. She obviously was without means, and likely homeless. I asked her where she was going to heat up her ravioli. She said that she just ate it cold from the can. I thought about the amazing food I eat, and it broke my heart to think of her eating cold Chef Boyardee. I said, “Why don’t you be my guest for dinner at my restaurant tonight?” She brightened up and took the address. She didn’t come.
A couple of weeks later, she showed up for lunch, and we served her the works, including a fresh juice. Have you ever helped out at a soup kitchen? My experience has been that perhaps because of pride and embarrassment, the people are not always outwardly grateful. I understand. But Elizabeth was exuberant, and it was a joy to serve her. I told her to come back whenever she wanted to. I somehow felt confident that she wouldn’t abuse my offer.
At least a month had passed, when a couple of days before Mother’s Day, as I was busy baking by myself in the very early morning, Elizabeth came in through the back door. She was carrying a gift bag. Now I have to digress to say that I have a few health issues that would be helped if I kept hydrated and especially if I made myself drink lots of tea, especially green. I don’t like tea. There is only one tea that I enjoy and it is the tea that comes in a bud which opens into a flower as it brews. I never buy it for myself since it is expensive. I haven’t had it since the first time someone gave me some, several years ago. Nobody up until now knew about my fondness for that tea.
Inside the gift bag was a pot specially designed for that flower tea, and a canister filled with the buds. I looked up and said, “Elizabeth, do you know that this is the only tea I really like in the whole world? It is my absolute favorite. But I never buy it for myself.” I gave her a big hug. She pulled a little note off the bag, and told me to read it. It said that words could not say how much she loved her meal. And that real mothers are made in heaven. That her mother smiled at her through me. “Feed the hungry,” it said. “My mother never let anyone leave the house hungry.”
Sometimes Marsha and I will excitedly share ideas about how we can change the world for the better when Adama starts to see a profit. But my experience with Elizabeth showed me that God is not constrained by what I don’t have. He blessed and ministered to me through Elizabeth in the midst of her poverty.
I have more to say about this, but I think I will stop for today.