Tuesday, November 18, 2014

waiting with the widow

{A continuation from yesterday's post.)

I watched her struggle to cross the bridge through the winds that beat across the side of her face, rippling her jacket away from her frail body.

Surely, I thought, her car is nearby and she's walking a short distance to get to it.

But I didn't see anything nearby except for the throngs of cars speeding past her, seeming not to notice that she was well into her 80s or 90s and struggling through the wind.

Should I help this woman, God? Is this a woman I can help? 

I have been praying that He would open my eyes and heart to widows, who are often harder to identify--yet often as lonely and in need--as orphans.

Because maybe it's possible to be a family to a widow while--and after--we wait to be a family to an orphan.

I drove past this woman, still looking for a car that might belong to her while hoping another car would stop for her. I saw neither, and as I continued to drive I prayed that God would show me what to do.

Is this her? Why is no one else stopping for her? 

Clearly, Jenny, you are supposed to go help that woman. 

It was almost as if I needed a hundred affirmations that this was God's design, although my heart identified it as such from the first moment. Five hundred yards past where I drove past her, I finally turned around using side roads and parking lots. I'm embarrassed to say it took me that long to obey, but it did.

When we finally arrived back at the intersection where she was starting to enter the Walmart parking lot, I opened my door enough to show her I was harmless--a woman with two crazy kids in the back--and called out, "Can I help you? Do you need a ride?"

She seemed surprised but thankful.

"Yes," she said. "I'm going to have my phone fixed because I need to use it before the storm comes tomorrow."

"I'll take you."

She hobbled over and in, somewhat hesitantly, and thanked me humbly. She looked cold and relieved to be inside a moving vehicle. I introduced myself and my boys in the backseat, then asked her name.

"Velma," she said.

We made our way to Walmart while I figured out how to best help her. I wouldn't be much help with two toddlers to slow us all down, so I dropped her off at the front door and the boys and I waited and watched for her while eating a bag of trail mix in the car. She was in there a very long time, and I began to wonder if she had come out a different door without me seeing her.

I drove closer to the door and waited, making sure to get out of the car when I finally saw her tiny body emerge from the store.

They had fixed her phone and we were now off to take her home to her tiny house almost a mile away with overgrown shrubs and unraked yard. It was clear she couldn't keep up with the work herself; I didn't even know how she'd walked all that distance to get to the store.

When I asked her for her phone number, I watched her nervously fumble to find her address book and calendar, then her phone because she didn't know her phone number. She finally gave me a slip of paper with her number on it, except it wasn't her phone number. It was her address, which I already knew because I was sitting in her driveway.

I asked again if she could find her phone so I could type my number in for her. When she finally found it, it was clear she had forgotten why she was looking. She apologized. "I had a stroke a year ago and I can't do some things I used to do. It's embarrassing."

I smiled while wanting to cry for her. I asked if she had family nearby. It seemed as though some lived a county away, but it was pretty clear she was on her own.

Finally, I wrote my number down for her and used her flip phone to call my own so I could save her number in mine. I told her to call any time she needed anything; I'd be glad to help.

As I rolled out of her driveway, I watched her fumble for keys at the door, thinking about how hard it must be to live alone, for one thing, and to struggle with the daily tasks of living, too.

I wondered if her neighbors helped her at all, if they even knew she needed it. I wondered about her family. I wondered how she would have made it home from Walmart.

Then I drove away, thanking God for opening my eyes to this widow, praying for her, and knowing I would return in a few days to check on her. She wouldn't remember my name or number, but she'd know someone cared.