A Providential Encounter

I arrived home from a trip to another state last night just before a Spring snow fall. Schools closed and I took a vacation day to be with my children. Spring snow is hard to accurately predict–or the weather people missed something. It was just cold enough to snow but not enough to stick long. We all should have been at work and school.

At midday, I went out for quick errands. I pulled into the bank parking lot and saw them, Brian and Marla. They are a homeless couple that live among the trees behind our Walmart. I hadn’t seen them in weeks. Brian and Marla are chronically homeless. They admit that a lifetime of addiction and some other bad choices led them into a vicious cycle of instability. They never expected to be “out there.” Burned bridges with family who had just had enough eroded their only real help. And so they bounce between our town and others nearby just barely hanging on.

I know all of this and realize they had some ability to choose differently. But who am I to judge? I only know that I cannot ignore the downtrodden in my path—and Brian and Marla are often in my path. When I pulled into the bank lot today and saw them, I wondered if I could possibly sneak out the back. Had they seen me? Ha! I won’t ignore the downtrodden? I almost did.

I decided to roll up to the light and quickly greet them as I went on my way, but I could see Marla was crying. They had been packing up their camp behind Walmart. Neighbors over the ridge had accused them of stealing firewood; he denied this vehemently saying, “They just don’t want us in their backyard.” They were given two weeks to vacate the land. So today as Brian packed up the tent and things, Marla had stood holding a sign as snow chilled her to her bones. I drove up just then.

Thanks to you friends here at ACR, I was able to quickly set them up at a nearby motel. Marla wondered if she should wait in the car. No, I replied. I wanted to make sure she was treated with respect. The registration manager was very kind and offered a discounted rate. He told Marla about a computer in the lobby, free breakfast and free long distance anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. She’d call her father; he’s been ill. I could feel her relief. The two nights will give them a short reprieve, and it is supposed to warm up nicely in that time.

These are short-term helps and not solutions, but it was a most providential encounter. Marla could not stop thanking me. Her tiny, frail body felt fragile when she’d give me a hug. I told her that friends of ACR made it possible. As tears fell, she told me about the last week (not only difficult but scary), and how timely my help was.

Our encounter today was no coincidence. No, it was a providential encounter, and this is my thanks to all of you who enable us to be the hands and feet of God’s love to the neediest of needy.

With deep thanksgiving,