Monday, October 13, 2014

The man with the sign

Last Friday the kids had a day off of school. After a morning of listening to them play fun games like "lie on the couch and kick each other and then whine to Mommy about it", we loaded up in the car and headed over to have lunch with Daddy and then go run some errands.  A trip to Target was being contemplated as well.

Our usual route to Daddy's office was badly backed up with traffic, thanks to construction and lane closures and drawbridge openings, so we took the long way around. As I exited the freeway, I saw that there was a man with a sign standing by the side of the road.  I should note here, we live in the city and there are people standing with signs on many of our street corners. So this was not an unusual experience.

As I slowed to a stop, part of my brain silently cheered when I realized that I was one car back from the man and didn't have to pretend to be busy to avoid making eye contact with him.  I could see him well, however. He was clean shaven and tidily dressed. And his sign said something along the lines of "My family has fallen on hard times. Even a dollar would help us."

Before I go further, I'd like to say that I am a fairly generous person.  I love giving away my husband's hard earned money to all sorts of groups and causes.  But the street corner thing is a challenging one for me.  Still, as I sat there, the voice in my head started saying things like "Give him some money. He looks like he really could use it.  Can you imagine how hard it is for him to stand there and beg?" 

"Shut up, voice", said I.  I'd just paid our bills that morning and balanced the checkbook.  And although we are definitely a solidly middle class family, there have been a LOT of expenses lately and income hasn't been matching up. It's just one of those seasons. And I'd spent the morning looking over our finances and was feeling particularly anxious to hold on to my wallet and keep it closed.  "But you're on your way to pick up your husband to go out for a meal at a restaurant!" said the voice in my head. "And you were thinking about going on a random Target shopping trip this afternoon and you KNOW you'll spend way more there than whatever cash is in your wallet that you're keeping closed." 

By this point I was getting fairly annoyed with the voice in my head and also was sure that this was the longest stop light in the history of Seattle traffic control. 

Just then, Vivian's voice came from the backseat, where my kids had been unusually quiet and well-behaved for the past few minutes.  "What does his sign say, Mommy?" she asked me.  I took a deep breath, pulled out my wallet and read the sign to her while rolling down my window to hand the man some money.  As the light finally changed, I took a deep breath, thanked God for Vivian's interference and began talking (somewhat hypocritically) with my kids about the importance of taking care of others, since we have been so abundantly blessed.  It wasn't a new lesson for them, so they agreed with me and I wasn't sure they were really paying that much attention. We also talked about using wisdom in giving away our money and listening for God to tell our hearts when to give (despite me having totally ignored that second part for as long as I could).

We'd made it about 2 more blocks before Vivian's voice sounded again.  "Mommy! When I get home, I want to get one of my purses and put my 2 dollars in it (her total net worth at the moment) so that I can have money with me to give to people who need help!"

I cried the rest of the way to my husband's office with gratitude for this little girl and her caring heart.  Being a parent is the single most humbling experience I've ever had. I am blessed by it every day.

No comments: