There are moments in parenting that time stops and you realize that what you do next matters. I had one of those moments today at Whole Foods and it felt too important and impactful to keep to myself.
When I was leaving the store I had Savannah on my hip (that's my 30 lb 3 year old) and Genevieve in the cart whining (that's my almost one year old second child, so I'm not sure why she was whining). I was having trouble steering the cart and was praying I could make it to the car without dropping the 3 year old because I knew she'd make a dash for traffic. A woman approached me and said something I couldn't understand.
I scrunched my eyebrows and leaned in, "Sorry?"
"Could you help us buy food?"
I took a breath. I looked from her to her elderly mother. I sighed. "Sorry, usually I would, but I have my hands full today."
"No problem, sorry." She walked away.
I want to give some context to my story here, because this morning was just not my morning. I have been battling intense allergies all month, and this morning I realized that we were running out of cider fire, which is what our family uses in place of antibiotics. I was at Whole Foods to get ingredients to make more. My head hurts, I haven't slept well in almost a year and it has all been piling up lately. Okay, back to my embarrassment.
I continued to push the cart and the guilt started to fall on me. Savannah is at the age where she narrates our entire life, so before I could get too deep into a shame spiral she spoke.
"Mama." She waited for eye contact.
"Uh huh, that lady talked to me."
"She wants food? You said... You said..."
She searched for the words because I think it was confusing to her.
And that was the moment. Because this is what matters. It doesn't matter how many Sunday mornings we sit in church and fill ourselves up, it doesn't matter how many prayers we whisper over her in the night, it doesn't matter how many times I sing "Jesus Loves Me," and it doesn't even matter how much spare change I pass to the panhandlers all over Dallas. None of that actually matters because this moment is the moment my daughter saw a woman asking for food and she saw her mother say no.
By this time I had Savannah strapped in and had walked around to put Geny in her carseat. I sat Genevieve down and stood up straight and took a deep breath and paused. I bent back over and got the carrier out of my car and strapped the baby to my body.
"Mama, you say 'hmm.'" Savy smiled as she tapped her chin, pretending to think hard about something.
"Yeah Sav, I was thinking."
I went back around and got Savannah out of the car, grabbed my keys and put my debit card in my back pocket. We went and got money out of the ATM, walked around Whole Foods until we found the lady and gave her the cash.
We walked back out to the car and I strapped Savy back in.
"Sav, we gave that lady money to buy food."
"We did that because Jesus said that if someone is hungry you feed him."
Done. The woman may have bought food, she may have bought alcohol, she may have pocketed the money to support her drug habit. None of that really matters to me because if Jesus came to me and asked me to help Him get food I would unequivocally say yes and I wouldn't ask questions. I wouldn't tell him that I could schedule a fishing lesson for him later if he wanted. I wouldn't ask if he had a job or had applied to any jobs, I would give him money to buy food.
Going to church, reading her the bible, singing her songs, praying for her, even volunteering for an organization regularly are all amazing and impactful and I want to do those things. For me, though, all of those things require very little of me. I want to do them. I usually feel good enough to do them and if I don't then I just stay home.
Today was not me, today was Christ in me. If it were up to me I would have climbed into my car and driven myself home. I had plenty of legitimate excuses to not help the woman buy food. But something beyond myself compelled me and that is what I hope my girls see. I have to die to my selfish desires and allow Christ in me to serve and love people.
There are a few things looking back that I wish I'd done differently, and those are all the things that usually keep me from following that tug in my chest. I wish I'd told Savannah that yes, I was thinking about how I made a choice that wasn't very kind, and that Steeds are kind and we take care of other people if we can. I wish that I'd asked the woman her name, bought her a meal and sat down to eat it with her and asked her story. That's what I would have done with Jesus. I wish I'd had a better way to have that conversation afterward with my 3 year old, even though I'd bet money that my actions were way more important than anything I could have said.
I didn't do those things, but it's okay, because I did more than I wanted to and that is growth. Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers. When my daughters look, I want that to be me.