She was thin and near-elderly, yet I saw strength and determination in her body posture. A gracefulness that belied her position in life.
She was a stranger, but I can’t forget her face.
I was loading my younger son Chase into the car when it happened. We were at PetSmart picking up dog, turtle and fish food, our usual. Rawhide bones and a squeaky toy had been thrown in for good measure.
I buckled Chase into his car seat and was settling into my seat when I saw her. I don’t know where she came from. I’d just turned on the truck and cracked the front windows a few inches when I noticed an older woman walking slowly but steadily toward our SUV. I knew she was coming directly at me. At us.
As a mom, my first instinct is for my child. I made sure the doors were locked as I watched her approach.
She hesitated about five feet from my car. It was clear that she was in need. Faded, tattered clothes draped her thin frame. I wondered where had she come from. The parking lot was nearly empty that weekday afternoon.
Lord, give me wisdom.
I finally looked her full in the face, and I’ll never forget her eyes or the expression on her aged features. She seemed wise, peaceful despite her obvious need, and filled with something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Almost as though she knew me and knew all about me.
It felt strangely as though she could see through every moment of my life.
Though I’d expected the question, I stared at her blankly for a moment. I glanced back at Chase and then saw the woman’s face soften. A mother’s understanding? She moved back a few steps.
I grabbed my purse and reached blindly through my wallet, feeling the cash with my fingertips. I had a twenty, a five and three singles.
I pulled out the five and three singles and handed it through the passenger window. Gratitude filled her eyes as she grasped the bills and backed away from our truck.
“Thank you so kindly. It will help me and my daughter eat.” Her eyes continued boring into mine and – call me naive – I heard deep gratefulness in her voice.
I watched as she moved past my fancy SUV, raggedy jeans swishing over thin legs that carried her toward a new unknown. She walked slowly over hot pavement as cold air blasted me in the face. Emotions swirled inside and myriad thoughts crossed my mind.
I have so much and she has so little.
I’m the most gullible person on the planet.
I wonder why she came to me?
Should I have given her all of it?
I wonder what her name is.
Something else crossed my mind, a verse I’d seen just that morning while reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Lord Foulgrin’s Letters.
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:1 & 2.)
I remembered how the stranger seemed to know me. How her eyes overflowed with familiarity, but to something beyond my understanding. Had I entertained an angel?
I carried the situation to my Heavenly Father, my fervent prayer that the money I’d given her had pleased His heart. I prayed for her. And I prayed that with Jesus’s help I would learn to love in deed and in truth and I wouldn’t shut up my heart against a brother – or sister – in need. (1 John 3:17 & 18).
Of course I never saw the older woman again, but I haven’t forgotten her face or those knowledge-filled blue eyes. Tonight, as I read through Luke chapter 6, a couple verses brought to mind the stranger whose eyes looked through me.
“Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back” (6:30). “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (6:38).
Jesus’ words reach into the depths of my soul, a bright reminder that love for our Savior should be manifested through generosity in our hearts and our lives, to friends as well as strangers.