I have a friend. She seeks me out at work just to check in and sift through the snapshots of our lives and see what’s there to grow from, think about, cry for, and together we look for the Lover of our souls working. Her encounters warm me and remind me I’m not alone at the campfire. Recently, she took the choral group from our school on a trip to New York City. They were gone for four days and I watched eager for their pictures telegraphed home on social media, smiles wide, eyes sparkly, joy. When my friend came back to school on the fifth day, we sat at my table in the bookstore, her telling me stories, me picturing them eager in my head. This one, though, this “picture” story? It knicked at my heart and left it sore and tender. I can’t forget what I “see”.
They’d been in Central Park that day. The afternoon was setting in and cold sat heavy in the air. They made their way across the street to a Starbucks to warm up with coffee. A quick and easy fix. No one needed to think twice about it. It was there and they could get it. Each student, at the beginning of the trip, had been given a “blessing bag” with some things in it a person with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn might want. Small comforts. They were told to look with eyes to see, to be watching for the person who they wanted to give their bag to.
As they walked out of Starbucks, the wind tapping them on the shoulder, one of the young ladies noticed someone sitting on the sidewalk a few paces away. She was a tiny asian woman; older. “I’ll be right back,” whispered the student to my friend, her teacher. She kneeled down and smiled at the woman. Her smile alone is a gift. I’ve seen it myself in the hallways at school. How bright, I think, that smile must’ve been to this tired woman, seasoned and slapped by a harsh street life, used to feeling invisible. She handed her the bag and life spread across the woman’s face. Hat, gloves, snacks. Such simple things. The group moved on down the sidewalk. My friend turned back; just a last glimpse. The woman was hungrily shoving the package of crackers in her mouth; one right after the other.
I think of that scene and I feel it in my gut. She is still out there somewhere, most likely. I look over at my girl on the couch tonight wrapped in blankets, her belly full, the tap tap tapping of her knitting needles in the quiet of the room. When we pass out crackers, a stomach is filled for a bit; maybe just enough hope for one more night; staving off despair I know nothing about. When we pass out crackers, we hear the wrapper rip open behind us and we see the world different and closer up. I long for that woman to know warmth and soft and fullness. I pray for that student to carry what she saw with her. I thank God for that teacher, my friend and her heart, who longs for the deeper things, and took her there to pass out crackers.