When I first saw her, I could tell she was near tears. A volunteer had come to tell me that there was a young woman that I needed to see. She was a small woman with a backpack cutting into her shoulders. She looked as though she was carrying the weight of the world.
As soon as I said hello, her eyes filled with tears. She told me her story. She was homeless, her car was out of gas, and she and her two month old baby had spent the night in the park. She had three more children with her but she was able to find them a place to stay for the night. The problem was that she had nowhere to spend the night and this night, she would have all the children with her. She was frightened.
A major blessing of working at Trinity Food Ministry is having a nurse from Deaconess Faith Community Nurse Ministries (faithnurses.org) there. While my resource list is growing, I am often at a loss as to help people when their needs are so far beyond the immediate need of food. I introduced her to our nurse.
This was all just a part of the story. She began working for a man four years ago. He was disabled and needed help around the house. She and her little girl moved in with him. The man had two children of his own that came to live with him after their mother went to prison for drugs. At some point, the relationship between the man and the young woman became romantic and later, she became pregnant.
She left his house with all the children after the man was arrested for hitting her. While she had a place at a domestic violence shelter, she could not take his two children there because she did not have custody of them. As a result, she couldn’t enter into the shelter until she found a place for the two. Their grandmother was coming from Kansas City to pick them up but would not be able to be in St. Louis until the following day. That left her one more night with four children.
After many phone calls, we were able to get her into a motel for the night so that she and the children would be safe. Arrangements were made for her to meet the grandmother and for the shelter to pick her up. I filled a bag with food and other necessities for the evening and she was on her way. As far as we know, all things worked out.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? The Mystery. The Great Unknowing. We do what we think we are supposed to do, to help, to pray, to offer food and drink, then we simply have to rely on the idea that it all was enough. That it was exactly what we were supposed to do. That God heard our prayers.
As a culture, we seek certainty. We want to know that what we do matters. We want to know that if we do good things, good things will follow, that all will be well simply because we think that is the way it should be.
Yet, the only certainty in life is that it will end at some point. We can try to force the issue but all in all, life happens and sometimes it is very messy regardless of how we try to fix it. At some point, all we have is faith.
Faith is a mystery. God is a mystery. It is what it is. Simply. Profoundly. Mystery.
We accept that we have been commanded to help the “least of these”, to feed, to tend, to care for the children of God who are less able to care for themselves.
No car. No phone. No money. The young woman could have turned the two children over to Family Services. But she didn’t. She put herself at risk to make certain they were handed over to a family member rather that slipped into a system where they could disappear under mounds of red tape. She had a faith that she was doing the right thing.
It often feels as though the problems of this world are so large and so numerous that it threatens to overwhelm me. I feel smothered by the need surrounding me. But community pulls me out from under the cloud, fills me with the breath of God so that I can walk up to the next person with God’s smile in my eyes and say, “Hello. How can I help you today?
It is in that common core of community that I find my life. It is in the midst of that community that I know I am called to beckon to others. How do I know that? I don’t know “how”, I only know that I do know. It is that mystery.
It is in that mystery that regardless of where that young woman ended up, I know that along her way, she found a short respite where people cared enough to sit, to pray, to listen, and then to do what could be done. She searched out and found a community that could help her. I trust that it was what was needed at that moment in time.