Day 6 – God Winks at Sam’s Club

It almost goes without saying that when you lose someone, you are more sympathetic to other people’s losses as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have your eyes open to actually see the needs of others. At least, I wouldn’t think so – and not while shopping at Sam’s Club of all places. There, I’m usually “in the zone” – just trying to get in and get out in as little time as possible. But, if you ask God to use you, I think sometimes he does.

Today I saw a familiar-looking face in frozen foods. Two aisles later I remembered, ‘He lost his wife a couple years ago….kids took karate with my oldest son.’ In produce, I saw him again, and as we both arrived at the bananas and picked up handfuls, he smiled and said, “I have six kids. These won’t last 15 minutes.” “I know,” I said, “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but….” and I made the connections for him. I gave him the only gift I could in that moment – a chance to talk to someone he started to recall the more we chatted. And when he said, “I get by each day with God’s grace,” and I said, “Yes, that’s right,” his eyes just lit up with light. He knew then that I was sincere, and I could tell he appreciated my concern all the more. I told him twice I would pray for him and his kids, and how blessed am I to be able to do that for one of my brothers?

I checked out with my haul of stuff, packed my trunk, and hopped behind the wheel to get home before lunch. But before I reversed out of my space, a white Suburban backed into a spot slightly to the right and ahead of me. The driver got out, his back to me.  He had thick white hair and was wearing a baseball cap. On the back of his truck were two bumper stickers, both with the name of a woman – one with her birth and death dates, the other for a road race organized in her honor. It was a familiar name. I googled her. Ah yes – I remembered this local story from two years ago. She was 31, had gone to the same elementary school as my kids, then the affiliated high school, was a celebrated high school and collegiate athlete, married, and then passed away due to childbirth complications after delivering healthy twins. Hmmm…Wasn’t this…. interesting? To have noticed these stickers on a truck that wasn’t directly in front of me.  Then for “some reason” I felt curious enough to look her up, only to find she went to my kids’ school and died in a similar way as my stepsister, who passed just a couple weeks ago?  What to do next?

I prayed on it, took a deep breath, and then…I wrote the driver a note. Basically, it said, ‘Dear Driver – I don’t know who you are, but from those stickers I know she was precious to you, and I am short of words to fully express my deepest sympathy for your loss. My kids are at her same school, and I just lost my stepsister to post-childbirth complications. It seems that these things can’t happen in modern times, but they do. I will be praying for her family, and for you.”

Today, I am grateful for having been given grace enough to notice people and things that on most days I probably would have missed. May these families feel a small dose of comfort and peace for having been ‘seen’ today.


Day 4 – Eva and Me

All I know is, her name is Eva Togbah. On September 23, she was sick.  Observers would know it right away; she couldn’t hide a single, long trickle of blood running out of her mouth.  Sitting in a car outside the Doctors Without Borders Ebola Treatment Center in Monrovia, Liberia, her young yet worn face looking into the distance, she became an unforgettable image.  Fifteen days later, her photo appeared in my morning paper.  But the newspaper article was about thousands of affected people. So of course, the details of her care, her suffering, her relationships with loved ones, what became of her ultimately – all of these are omitted.  Editors must fit text into limited space, right?  Or is it that readers have short attention spans and no one’s really asking about one woman named Eva?  In a world of billions….

I’m quick to anger because I don’t know whether Eva survived this horrible virus, but then I stop to consider that I am convicted as well. Her face cries out silently for help.  How many times have I seen her face as I go about my weekly routine? The people I meet on a daily basis might not have Ebola, but they may suffer, many in unspeakable ways.  Right here and now I can wait to hear the whisper, about where to listen longer, share a smile, give encouragement, or simply minister by being fully present.  Lord, have mercy on me and show me your way to love.