by Sally Matheny
|Enthusiasm fresh as the morning|
My enthusiasm was fresh the morning we began serving a meal at the project. People slowly filtered into the commons area. My cheerful greetings were not returned. Instantly, I sensed a divide greater than the table of food between us. They had come for the food. Nothing else.
An inexplicable heaviness stifled conversations. Icy silence, as well as sharp tongues, severed most attempts of interaction. It was obvious. We were not welcome.
After helping distribute the food, I retreated under the outstretched branches of a tree, thankful that I’d thought to bring a lawn chair. It provided a secure place to perch and watch the crowd. Most of the missions team stayed under the shady tent. Two or three pastors mingled and tried to chisel out conversations.
Then I saw her.
A young woman, probably in her early twenties, stood off to the side, alone. She was looking around as if searching for something, or someone.
I hesitated. The last woman I had approached, gruffly informed me she was waiting on someone. Perhaps this young woman was waiting as well.
Yet, she continued to stand there, sweat flowing down her face. She hugged her drink and chips in one arm and her hamburger in the other. What was she looking for?
Seating was limited. Most people grabbed their food and hustled back to their homes. Could this woman possibly be one of the few who wanted to sit and stay awhile?
Slowly, I eased out from under the tree’s protection. Would she be like the others and berate me for being there? I was an outsider—different ethnicity, different economic level, different worldview.
“Hi. Are you looking for someone?”
She shyly shook her head no. I didn’t recognize any anger in her face. It appeared to be more like discomfort.
“Would you like to sit down to eat?”
A simple nod yes.
I look around at the few tables provided. No empty seats. I scan the grassy area under the trees. An empty chair sits beside mine.
“Would you like to sit under the tree? It’s cooler.”
|Sharing the Son Means Leaving the Shade|
She nods and follows me to the tree. The distance is short, but we don’t arrive in time to claim both chairs. Only my chair is left.
“Here. You can have my chair.”
As she sits down, I introduce myself. She tells me her name. But I could not hear her well over someone yelling. I did not ask her to repeat it.
I smile, trying hard not to be insincerely cheery. “It’s nice to meet you. I hope you like your burger.” I motion toward the tent. “I’ve got to go help serve.”
She smiled with another silent nod.
As I stood under the shade of the tent, I kept looking back over at the tree. The woman ate silently. A young man, with a mental illness, chattered away beside her but she wasn’t responding.
Something inside told me to go tell her why we were there. We weren’t just giving away free meals. We were sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
But the earlier rejections of the crowd stifled my response.
The crowd dwindled. Only a few remained in line. I decided handing out napkins to folks would be helpful.
“Would you like a napkin?”
A few minutes passed. Another expressionless face approached.
“Would you like a napkin?”
Another five minutes passed before anyone needed my valuable napkin distribution service. This is ridiculous. I should just go talk to her.
I neatly stack the napkins on the corner of the table and turn back towards the tree.
She is gone.
As quietly as she slipped into my life, she slipped out. As well as my opportunity to tell her how much God loves her. And how He gives a joy so great, that she’d have a hard time staying so quiet.
|Plant a seed of hope.|
And for my silence, I am sorry.
Perhaps she already had a relationship with Christ. I hope so.
I understand when we first meet someone, it’s not always the best time to share Christ.
”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared
to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)