Thursday, February 10, 2011

Perspective & Appreciating What You Have

Broke People Can't Give - Dave Ramsey

It was a snow day today (again).  I woke up to find my husband still at home and to learn that his work had gone from being on a "2 hour delay" to closed for the day.  An hour or so later the road was clear and we decided to get out of the house.  We went to lunch and ran a weekend's worth of errands and we were about to end our day by stopping for cupcakes. 

As we got out of the car, we saw a woman sitting in a car nearby and she called to Paul to please "come here". She looked like she might be lost and since we were near downtown that wasn't unlikely (I know I've spent plenty of time lost in that area).  We walked over and Paul asked "Can I help you?".  She responded with "I hope so".   The woman sat in her car, obviously on oxygen and looking scared and confused.  I saw a notebook in her hand and I saw the name of a church written on the page.  I was fully prepared for her to ask for directions, I was not prepared at all for what followed.

She began telling us that she'd spent the day talking to churches and driving around trying to find someone to help her.  She told us about how someone had gained access to her bank account and taken out $500 which had caused her to be overdrawn and now not have enough money to pay her bills and she'd gotten a notice from the utilities about being shut off.  I don't remember all the details of what she told us but my heart broke her as I heard her story.  She said she'd called talked to all these different churches (as she said this she flipped through the pages of her notebook and I saw several church names I recognized as being larger churches in the area) and she'd talked to Huntsville Assistance Program.  The latter had told her they would help her with some amount, the formers had mostly told her that they couldn't help her because she wasn't a member of that particular church.  She expressed that she didn't know who else to call (what organization or church).  She asked what church we went to.  We told her that we didn't go to church and I really didn't know who to tell her to call.  I thought of the church where we took FPU and gave her the name of the church (since I know they have some sort of food pantry at least) and I couldn't help but give her the few dollars I had in my jeans pocket.  I really wanted to run back home and load her up with food out of our stockpile.

It didn't seem like getting a cupcake was really all that important after that encounter.  By the time we walked into the cupcake shop, I was in tears.  As it happened, they barely had any cupcakes anyway (like every other place we'd gone in town it seemed they were understaffed and over-crowded thanks to the weather closing the schools and some major employers).  I headed straight for the bathroom to wipe my eyes and blow my nose.  When I returned I overheard Paul talking to another customer, obviously about the lady in the parking lot.  After asking Paul if they had any more flavors that I'd seen (they didn't) we left.

Outside he told me that the lady in line was very skeptical of the woman in the parking lot and obviously didn't believe her story.  Funny thing was on the way into the store I was figuring that Paul felt the same way. He's one of the most skeptical people I know when it comes to those asking for help.  I think living in Nashville and working in downtown Nashville, encountering people asking for handouts more than daily made him that way.  Evidently, I was wrong and what he did next made me prouder of him than I've ever been.  I thought the lady was gone, but evidently she'd just moved her car.  He told me to give him some cash out of his envelope.  I took it out of our joint entertainment / dining fund (the money we would have been using to buy cupcakes a few minutes before) and he took it over and gave it to her.

As we left we were both wishing we could have / would have done more.  He commented that he almost or should have (I don't remember how he phrased it) told her to go over to the gas station so he could fill up her tank.  I agreed we should.  We went back to find her but she was gone.  Whether it was because the hard-hearted lady inside said something and got her booted off the property or because she left on her own, we don't know.  We discussed it off and on for the rest of the night, with various doubts of maybe she was pan-handling, maybe she wasn't.  We'll never know for sure.  Even if she was, what I do know is that we did what we should have done and I hope I'm never so cold-hearted as to be able to stand in line for a cupcake after hearing a story like hers.

If I had it to do over again I would have done things differently. I would have filled up her tank with gas, I would have gone across the street with her to the pharmacy to make sure she had the meds and necessary items she needed and I would have gotten her name and phone number so that if there was more I could do I could do it.

This whole encounter really made us think about our situation and just how lucky we are.  We have friends and even family who aren't so lucky.  No matter how good you are doing in life it's easy to dwell on the negative and the areas that you wish were improved.  Seeing things like this make you really appreciate all that you have, and make you pretty darn willing to give it all away so that others didn't have to suffer.


  1. Thank you for sharing-
    You know it can take one devastating moment in our lives for our lives as we know them to fall completely apart. Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if no one judged & everyone lent a helping hand.

  2. Not only would it be a better place but there would probably be very few people truly in need.