DaRT: Gifts and Mysteries

 |  Community, Testimonies  |  Share
Contributed by Julie Atwood.

He’s slumped against the frost-glazed wall of the downtown Dallas McDonald’s, coatless arms twined round his sunken torso as he shivers in the crisp December chill. My brain snaps a photo of his aging face, black as the night and seamed with wrinkles. Then stores the snapshot away into some forgotten crevice as I focus upon Cheryl’s immediate instructions. “Just pull out a hat and pair of gloves, will you, Julie? We’ll put them together with this hoodie as a package for Robert.”

Forgetting the frail old man, I grub inside the plastic sack I’m clutching—one of the two filled with warm items Cheryl’s brought with her to share with anyone who has need. Pull out a black wool tuque and hefty set of gloves, place them atop the neatly-folded sweatshirt Cheryl’s lifted from her sack.

As I take from her the bundle of combined winterwear—just as Abby bursts out the restaurant’s door with a steaming cup of coffee—I’m thinking about how pleased Robert will be with his many gifts. As pleased as Ravi seemed when, only moments before, Henry led our group’s prayer over his pizza shop and we offered him New Year’s blessings after swallowing final bites of pizza. The proprietor’s face beamed in the wake of this blessing . . . his Hindu heart welcoming our Christian prayer with apparent joy.

When we reach Robert’s parking lot and Abby slips the coffee cup into his outstretched hands, his face also lights up with a smile. But it fades as his eyes travel to my proffered bundle of warm clothing. “Naw, don’t need none of them things,” he assures us, holding up his fingers to show us they’re already encased in gloves. “But ya’ll can just set them down on that bench over there. Someone else might come along who needs ’em.” I place my bundle on the bench he’s pointing to and, after exchanging final New Year’s greetings, we leave our now always calm and cheerful homeless friend in search of other folks with needs.

She’s stooped over a trash can near our usual train stop, tugging out items to toss into a plastic sack nearly as large as her bent form. “Want some gloves?” Cheryl calls out to the woman in a cheery voice.

She startles. Rears like a spooked horse, the whites of her eyes flashing like twin moons in her midnight face. Then heaves up her bulging sack and, in one frantic motion, slings it across her back. Gallops off down the Dallas street as though she’s being chased.

“Oh . . .kay,” Cheryl murmurs, clearly startled as the rest of us by this lady’s reaction to her offer. But in me it triggers a twinge of memory . . . of the times I’ve also startled and bolted from strangers’ well-meaning offers of clothes. In my case, I felt disconcerted by so many people assuming I had need of them simply because of the super-casual ways I dressed. I’d wish they’d get to know me before making snap judgments and assumptions about my needs. But now aligned with folks on the other side of the proffered sack, I too find myself assuming this lady is poor. And no doubt homeless as well. Why else, after all, would she be rooting through the trash? Yet I realize I know nothing of her story . . . of the mysteries in her life that would cause her unexpected flight.

Only minutes before our train is due to arrive, Abby and Cheryl spot him. Actually, they spot his crutches first. “Yeah, we’ve gotta go for him,” Abby comments with a grin as she points. I follow the pair as they chug off down the street to introduce themselves to Pedro. Pray with them in silence as they speak words of healing over his injured knee.

“Well . . . I know God’s at work, healing it a little at a time,” he assures us afterwards.

“You don’t feel any change right now?” Cheryl asks him to make sure, for many of her prayers are followed by God working instant miracles.

Pedro hesitates, shakes his head, then smiles. “It’s sure a whole lot better than back when I had the accident, though.” His tone is still thankful, reassuring. “But know what I really find amazing? Just a little while ago I saw this guy in the crowd. Thought he was a friend of mine and hoped he’d come over to pray for me. But naw, he was a total stranger. Only just then, right afterwards, you guys came along”—his smile broadens and stars dance in his eyes—“so I know you’re God’s answer to my prayer.”

Almost time now to catch the train. But then—

“Remember that old man?” Cheryl pauses in midstep, gazes across the street with a thoughtful expression. “The one we saw awhile back, shivering next to the door of the McDonald’s?”

Yes. I remember. The photo my brain snapped of him pops out in plain view.

Cheryl continues, “I just had a feeling about him. . . .”

The old man’s seemed to come to us all as an afterthought. But there he is . . . still slumped against the restaurant’s wall, shivering from cold, scrawny arms twined about his fragile torso. But when we offer him a combined bundle of hoodie, gloves, and tuque, he comes to instant life. Straightens up, his wrinkles curved into a million smiles as he bursts into effusions of delight.

“Why, this is jus’ my size!” He holds up the sweatshirt, studies it with wonder before tugging it over his head. “How’d you folks know?” Slipping his gnarled fingers into the warm gloves, settling the tuque over his frostbitten ears, he graces us—and his God—with as many thanks as are smiles now creasing his leather face.

We never can predict for sure how folks will respond to the gifts we have to offer. Only God knows every corner of each unique life, every history of struggles and of sorrows. But He will keep on helping us to learn the mysteries as we follow Him, offering the greatest gift . . . His love.


Comments are closed.

Recent sermons

Listen to all of our sermons.