Today was such a day. A magnificent day. A humbling day.
Today I was reading during quiet time and praying that God would send me direction. Show me exactly how to serve Him. I'm like that. I need step by step instructions.
I started praying over our excess...the things in our home and life that there is too much of. And oh man, that list is long. But today two things stood out in my mind.
Toiletries: soap, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, etc
And ice cream.
Yup. We have quite a bit of both of those things.
And just like that I knew what to do.
Quickly, I gathered plastic cups and spoons, an ice cream scoop and all the toiletries and ice cream.
Called to the kids to put on shoes.
Grabbed my keys and purse and
then I hesitated. I thought this is silly and ridiculous. Ice cream?
I shrugged the feeling off. Mostly.
And we jumped in the car. The kids asked where we were going and I told them I wasn't sure.
I told them about the ice cream and cups and spoons.
They didn't even ask why. It wasn't a silly idea to them. It made sense to them.
They asked if they could have ice cream too and I told them if we had extra.
We drove just a few miles and we were in down town.
A sprawling grass park was right in front of us and it was crowded. Birthday parties, families enjoying their weekend, people seeking shade under the trees, beggars with signs on the corners, outcasts sitting with their packs in the corners.
The kids spotted a splash pad and all lost their marbles, pleading to go play.
We parked a few blocks down and scooped a few cups of ice cream.
We started walking towards the park and stopped to greet a couple women sitting on the sidewalk. They looked tired, filthy, hopeless.
My two oldest kids ran to them and ever so casually asked, "Want some ice cream?"
The women looked at one another, surprised, maybe startled.
Then they looked at my kids and with big grins showcasing more gums than teeth, they said "Sure!"
We gave them each a cup and then asked if they needed any soap or shampoo. One woman said she had some and the other said she could really use some. We gave the one woman a bag of toiletries and then wished them well.
We walked about five blocks to the park, stopping at benches and under trees, offering ice cream and soap to each person in need that we came across. Steven, Daniel, Maria....and others whose names we didn't get. Each was so kind, so grateful. And most were pretty surprised at what we were offering.
Every few people we'd stop and scoop some more cups.
People offered up high fives and hugs to my kids, prayers for me, and encouragement and advice for all of us.
"Keep going, momma. I know you have a full plate."
"Listen to your momma, guys."
"You kids are all right."
"Starting your lives off right, stay that course."
"Follow your parents, they know what they're doing."
"Keep loving people."
As we approached the park that I had promised playtime at, I noticed we only had two scoops of pretty melty ice cream left. I told the kids they could share it when we got to the park. I divided it up for the kids.
There was a homeless man sitting right by the trash can, hidden by some bushes. He caught my eye and I said hello. I carried on polite chit chat with him for a few moments and then my three year old piped up,
"We don't have any ice cream." he said "Do you want some soap?"
The man glanced at me and I smiled. He looked back at my little boy and answered him.
"Oh darn it, I LOVE ice cream. But that's okay. I'll take some soap, please."
Wayde gave him the soap and then the man asked for a high five. They high fived and then Wayde looked in his ice cream cup. Two bites. That's what he had left from his single scoop of melty ice cream. He scooped up one bite and held it out to the man. The man asked "For me? I can have a bite of your ice cream?" Wayde pushed his spoon toward the man more. And right there, my heart skipped a beat. I literally felt Jesus all around as Wayde spoon fed his last two bites of ice cream to a homeless man named Sky. He didn't hesitate. He didn't think it odd or feel uncomfortable. He didn't even turn to me and boast about sharing. He just gave it to him. Because Sky didn't have any ice cream, he later told me.
My heart exploded with pride and love, adoration and appreciation and at the same time, guilt. If only I had the heart of a child, a heart closer in line with Jesus. To offer up all that I have, truly. To give not because Jesus has told me to, but because others don't have what I do.
It is true: True generosity is not marked by how much you give but by how much you have left. Wayde only gave a couple lousy bites of melted ice cream. But he walked away with nothing. He gave all he had.
Sky hugged my kids and gave everyone a high five and shook my hand. In that hand shake I could feel his gratitude. It was firm, but gentle. I knew that he appreciated what Wayde had done for him that day. Not the things we gave him, oh I'm sure he is grateful for the soap and shampoo and I'm sure it was a pleasant change to have a bit of sweet ice cream on a hot afternoon. But I saw in his eyes that he was grateful that we spent a few minutes with him. We gave him love. Wayde did. Wayde treated him the same way Wayde treats everyone he meets. He walked right up to him, squatted down and started talking away. In that few minutes, Sky was the only person Wayde was thinking of. And I could feel in Sky's handshake that it meant the world to him in that moment.
The homeless and poor are hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Cold. Hot. Sore. Filthy. But even more, they are sad. Lonely. Defeated. Empty. The feel worthless. And society sees them that way too. We scurry by and look the other way, tossing quarters to appease our conscience. But Jesus didn't toss coins and scraps to the poor. No, he went to them. To where they lived. He didn't stand on the stoop of the church food pantry and ring a dinner bell. He went to the streets, the alleys, the corners where the outcasts huddle and he met their needs. They are people. Hurting people like you and I. People made in the likeness of the Creator and King of the universe.
Wayde reminded me today that they are no different than you or I. And he showed me how to love them. The way Jesus loves.