A Brief Encounter…

I forgot to tell this little story back when it happened. A homeless woman befriended me on my walk to work one morning back in February. She was about five feet tall, dressed in an old athletic suit, with long stringy gray hair, a heavily wrinkled face, missing teeth, and a heavy lisp. She needed some personal items from the drug store, and I didn’t really see how I could say “no,” so we fell into step together up on Capitol Hill, and I listened and tried to be open and comfortable and nonchalant as she told me the story of her life. (I will admit, I was pretty intensely uncomfortable throughout our whole exchange.)

She told me about her health and her recent struggles with cancer; about how she’d been orphaned very young and raised for a while by a grandmother, until that relative died; about the homeless shelter where she currently lives and the way the woman in charge that morning had said some nasty things to her when she asked for help with her drug store errand; she told me how she gets her own room in the homeless shelter because she has health problems, and how much she likes that; she told me about how she’d been mugged by her own best friend in New York City (she was hazy on those details–last week? Last year? Fifteen years ago?); she assured me she’d never been into drugs and she didn’t understand why so many people were…she talked and talked for the five blocks we walked together, and near the end she wanted to know all about my life.

And I was struck by how unequally God distributes His gifts.

I was raised by two amazing, loving parents; I have six awesome siblings and I get along super well with all of them; I homeschooled through high school, then went to a nice private college where I got a great education; upon graduation I landed a job I love; I currently live in one of America’s most beautiful cities in an apartment I love with a fabulous sister; I have tons of wonderful friends; I am involved in all sorts of enjoyable and challenging activities and programs; I even have time now and then to indulge my passion for music, cooking, reading, writing, and spending time in the great outdoors; I am in excellent health. I could go on and on and on.

I was so humbled by this encounter. Because despite all the clearly awful things that have happened in this woman’s life, she was cheerful. I mean really cheerful. She smiled and laughed and patted my shoulder and never once seemed to think she had anything to complain about. And when we parted ways, she kept telling me how grateful she was for the little help I’d been able to give her, and assuring me she’d be praying for me. (Her parting injunction was for me to “get in the groove,” because apparently being 25 and unmarried is a sign of laziness…)

I think I met Christ that morning.

He just never ceases to surprise us.


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