One night I was serving food at our single women’s shelter program. I noticed a small, elderly woman standing among the mats. She was new to the program and seemed disoriented and confused. Her white hair was disheveled and she had a very unkempt appearance. When she came through the line, I thought I would get a closer look at who she was and what her needs were. Soon the serving was over and I realized the woman had never made it through. I looked for her and found she was already asleep on her mat. She had been too tired to eat.
A few days later I saw the same woman. I realized she was with her middle-aged daughter who was also in our program and I learned their names. I marveled how much better the older woman looked already.
On another day I glanced out our glass doors. There sitting on the stoop across the alley sat the mother and daughter. It was a beautiful, sunny day and they wore dresses and large, wide-brimmed sunbonnets. They were eating sandwiches as if they were on a picnic, only they were in our alley on a dirty step. Then I remembered back to the first night I saw them. I was thankful for the opportunity to be of just a little bit of help to them.
One day as I’m getting into the van, my eye catches the mother and daughter, sitting on their stoop, waiting for lunch to begin. They both peer out at the same time, with their wide-brimmed sunbonnets and expectant faces, looking to see what I was doing. They reminded me of those animated flowers with f aces in the Disney cartoons. A verse popped into my head, “Thou openest thy hand and satisfieth the desire of every living being.” It is humbling to realize that people wait on us to fee them.
I am amazed at the number of women I know from our shelter program when I walk down the street. At first, I am bothered for the women’s sake when I think, “I know where you slept last night, I know what you had to eat, and I even know how you look in your sleep.” I think, “This shouldn’t be.” They should have more privacy and dignity in their lives.
Then I think about how the women see us. The streets are a very hostile place and they always have to be on guard as they go about their day. The Lord showed me that when they see any of us in their path – across the street, on the bus, at McDonald’s –we represent safety to them. We are a light in the darkness to them. They may not know us very well, they may not know our names, and some of them may not even like us because of their paranoia, but they recognize our faces and know from their interaction with us at the shelter that we represent kindness and stability to them. And all day long the Lord reminds them of Himself in that way. We are a witness JUST walking down the street.