It is the morning after Christmas. Newly opened presents, hastily dropped on the furniture and more in boxes on the floor, overwhelm our small living room. And me.
I send my husband off to work in the early darkness, pour a cup of coffee and escape to the relative neatness of my room, postponing the inevitable clean up. When light filters in the window and children sleep on in the exhaustion of the last few days’ non-stop excitement, I hear a knock. Too early for visitors or a package delivery.
Still in my bathrobe, I peer cautiously through my blinds. I see her leave my porch long enough to gather what looks to be a meager wardrobe stuffed into bags, then she knocks again. That moment of decision alternates between “What would Jesus do?” and “What would my husband say?”
I watch her through the peek hole and realize that she has roamed my neighborhood longer than I have. She was here with young children when I moved in. They took family walks up and down my street. We waved at each other. But that was all. It may have been a wave of dismissal. We assumed we were being polite.
She is my neighbor. She looks like she needs help. I open the door. She asks to use the phone. I steel myself against the icy wind in my doorway while she calls. Her voice breaks and my eyes moisten, too. She’s fleeing from a mess of a home that turned out to be no home, and I’m standing in the doorway of my own home cluttered with the abundance of Christmas, sticky hugs and warm hearts.
“Can I sit on your porch until a friend comes to get me?” she’s asking as she hands me back my phone. I begin to nod, then ask if she’d like to come in. Sunday School lessons and the recent Christmas story merge in my mind as I invite her to sit. “Let every heart prepare Him room” and “a cup of cold water to the least of these”.
I settle for offering her coffee. She declines. Of the substances she may have tried, coffee is not one she likes. At a loss for something else to warm her, I ask if there is something else I can get her. “Hot cocoa?” she asks. Miraculously, I find a new jar of mix and half a gallon of milk. I warm it and she sips and tells her story.
We’ve been married for almost the same length of time. Her two children are now young adults. One drove her from her home with abuse. The other has a fatherless baby that she is not allowed to see. Now, she is driven from another home due to deceit and a mockery of friendship. And she sits in mine for those fifteen minutes.
She comments that I have a beautiful home. She, who has no home, looks past the mess of a cluttered living room and scratched paint and the world map displayed in the place where most display modern art. I look past it, too. I see her face etched with worry, pain, hardship.
She assumes I’m religious because of how I dress. I tell her I love how God created me to be a lady so I like to dress like one. She says she may wear a dress someday if she loses weight. I think of the dresses that I take for granted and others sneer at while they wear designer jeans. The dresses that she would love to be able to wear.
“Although I have lost some in the last few months,” she continues. And I think of the pounds I want to lose and how she loses them because she is hungry.
I, who have such abundance, cannot relate to her. My heart aches to help, to fix the broken mess while standing among my own. As she turns to leave, I do all I know to do. I ask if I can pray with her. I cannot mend the brokenness, but I am intimately acquainted with one Who can.
I pray for peace, for healing, for love, for a home. She grabs me in a hug. I give her some Christmas ham and cookies, also left of the abundance. As she drives away to yet another shelter, in hopes of someone to take her in, I turn back to my mess. And I am again overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the abundance of His grace.