But, today, us girls (Emmy, Sofia, and myself) decided that a trip to pick up Addison would be fun. Emmy had speech, I had an errand to run, and we ended up with some time to kill so we figured we'd surprise Addie at school.
A decision that changed our whole day.
Every morning, after I've strapped everyone into their car seats, we say a quick family prayer. I've found it's the easiest way to make sure it happens. We're all in the same place, it's a small space so everyone can hear, and they'll all strapped down so they
We rotate around, each of us saying prayer on our respective day. Today, I said the prayer. Most days I say the prayer, I ask for the chance to serve a person in need. I pray that we will be willing and able to help if someone needs service.
As we were coming back from preschool, we saw a woman walking alongside the road. She was clearly homeless. She was deeply tanned from a living a life out of doors. She was disheveled. Her clothes were from a different era. She was collecting trash, and smoking a cigarette. Cars whizzed by as she walked in the thistle weeds that dotted the road.
We slowed to make our turn, and a thought entered my mind, "This is your answer. She needs help."
We were on our way home to make lunch, I had groceries in the car, I'd offered to make dinner for a friend and could certainly get started on that, and I wasn't quite sure about picking up a stranger with my small kids in the car.
I glanced in the rear view mirror, hoping I would see her getting help from someone else, and the thought came to me again, "She needs help. This is your answer".
I turned the car around, explaining to the kids we were stopping to help a stranger, and to stay in their seats. I pulled up next to her as she peered wearily into my car.
"Do you need help?"
"No. I'm all right." Her voice started to crack.
"Are you sure? Can I give you a ride somewhere?"
"Food.", she stifled a sob, "I could use some food. I'm so hungry."
"Well, where do you want to get lunch? Get in; we will go anywhere you want."
She put out her cigarette, saving the last bit, and humbly climbed into the car. My car with my iPhone 5 plugged into my dash, with the leather, heated seats, and a full gas tank. My car that wasn't where I slept and found refuge.
The girls started in, "Hi! I'm Emily, I'm Addison, that's Sofia. I'm 5, she's 4, and she's one. We have another sister, but she's at school. What's your name?!?"
"You have babies in here. They are beautiful," she wept.
We were near to my home. My home that has so much food, we have to store the extra in the garage. Where we shower daily. Where we have the luxury of paintings on the wall and furniture that isn't necessary. My home where we are safe.
I ran in, grabbed her water and food for later in the day, and we went on to lunch.
We went to McDonalds; nothing fancy, but more than she could afford. I paid the bill easily. She excused herself to wash in the bathroom while I ordered.
While I grabbed napkins and ketchup, I heard her talking with the girls. She was showing them her jewelry. She gave them her mood rings to try.
I brought the food, setting up the kid's meals as usual. While I was opening ketchup packets, and poking straws into juice boxes, she started eating. The girls watched, mouthes agape. They'd never seen someone hungry eat a meal before.
She had both hands around her hamburger. She was hunched over consumed with the act of eating. She didn't pause between bites. Sauce was oozing out between her fingers. Her palms were covered. Rather than waste a single morsel by using a napkin, she licked the food from her hands. She unknowingly mumbled, "so good". When she looked up, she realized that the girls were observing. She apologized, and started to wipe her hands.
She told me about her mental illness, through tears she mentioned how her dad passed away four months ago, how she grew up in Morgan Hill riding Arabian horses with her mom, that she had a daughter who she hasn't spoken with in two years, how she'd been raped at gun point in October.
We talked about addiction. She's a recovering addict, not using anymore. How chemical imbalance can be a curse and how some people aren't bad, they use to mask the pain.
"Because being in their own skin just hurts too much sometimes," I said.
Her voice broke, "yes".
We visited a little more about horses, church, and her family until Sofia reminded us of the time.
On the ride to her van, where she lived, she apologized for over sharing, and thanked me for the lunch and kindness. She's found it hard to trust others, and was glad someone nice had been the one to stop this time.
Holding back tears, I looked her in the eye and told her, "You were an answer to my prayers today. Thank you for being brave enough to get into my car."
We said our goodbyes. I'm sure the experience changed the course of her day slightly. But for me, my day was changed profoundly. I was reminded of the many blessings I have been granted. I have a safe place to lay my head, I am clothed in my right mind, I am surrounded by children who love me, I have a husband who faithfully goes to work to provide us with all that we need and all that we want.
As we prepared dinner for our friends, the girls and I talked about our prayer this morning. Of course, they'd forgotten. I reminded them of my specific request to be of service. Addie put two and two together, shouting, "And we helped Jenelle today!"
My faith was, once again, solidified. Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. He knows our needs, both great and small. If we but listen, he will give us guidance and direction every minute of every day.
If you remember, I wasn't even supposed to be at preschool today.