We fill the bags Christmas morning, after we open our gifts.

With an assembly line of little and big hands, we stuff small paper sacks with water bottles, granola bars and white athletic socks. We include a verse about God’s love on one side of a notecard, a hand-drawn picture of a person in a field of flowers, in a sailboat or under happy sky on the other.

While we work, we talk about care for the hurting, tell the stories again about God’s greatest gift in his Son, share about the giving-blessing and grace.

Then we pile up the bags and say a prayer for those who will receive one.

God, would you use our act of love to help someone see they are special to You?

Would you use a small bag to help someone believe that their needs matter, that they are valuable?

We dress for our Christmas day festivities and load the sacks into our car so we’ll have one handy whenever we see “someone with a sign asking for help,” as our littlest says.

Over the weeks, we give filled paper to men, women, young, old. To people with dogs on chains, standing by backpacks and plastic bags, holding hand-written words on cardboard.

I pass a bag out the driver’s window, say something about “here’s a snack and a pair of socks, God bless you.” I feel like I’m using an eyedropper to fill the Pacific.

All this suffering I don’t understand.

And we say a prayer that God would hold him, hold her, take small and multiply. Amen.

Last week, I pulled off the freeway and up to the corner and saw her.

Head low bent, hunched shoulders, greasy hair nearly covering her face, she held a sign that read “Homeless. Need help.”

As we approached the end of the off-ramp, I reached to the floor of the car to pick up a sack and rolled down the window to hand it to her. From her profile, she might have been my age, but looked like she’d lived many pain-filled lifetimes.

She looked up, and her eyes met mine.

Water blues and earth browns locked, and she began to cry “thank you, thank you.” And we held our gaze, and for a moment her pain became mine, and her thanks made me feel embarrassed and sorrowful and grateful to give, all tangled inside.

“God bless you,” I said. “I hope this helps a little.”

She clutched the bag to her chest, and as we pulled away, I saw her look inside.

As I drove, I imagined her fingering the contents. Taking in her hand the picture J made with such care and reading the words,

“God is with you always.”

And I imagined her thinking for even that moment, He is with me.

I am seen. God sees me.

I hope another day leathered hands might pull that notecard from her backpack as she sits by the side of the road.

Looking at hope words and a fat-tipped marker-aquamarine sky — so different than this gray pavement and the roar of semis, smell of exhaust and dirt coating hurt skin — maybe she will feel deep pain remembering the girl she once was or hate again this corner where she stands in the rain.

But perhaps, maybe it could remind her of love?

Blue eyes below meeting sky above.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Message)

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