“Sainthood lies in the habit of referring the smallest actions to God.” ~C.S. Lewis
Sunday night our church family had a wedding shower to celebrate Austin and Alli Kerr’s marriage. I was chatting with some people when my cell phone rang. Michelle, my wife, was on the other end of the line calling from our house. She said one of the city police officers had jut pulled into the drive way. He said there was an older lady staying at a local motel that needed a ride to Bedford, the next city north of Mitchell.
People often stop by the house when they need help; even the police here in town. It’s because they know I’m a minister for our church family and they know that our church family is committed to helping people. I like being known for helping people; not in a vain way but I like it because it helps people know where to look for help.
So I asked Lauren Young to go with me. She was there at the wedding shower also and I know she loves to help people too. We called the police station to get the details and then drove out to the Mitchell Inn. It’s a small motel with cheap rates and mostly transient people staying there. We knocked on the door for room 19 and an older, larger lady answered. The room was mostly empty except for 6 or 7 trash bags on the floor full of clothes. There was also an empty case of Pepsi, an open bag of Doritos and a loaf of white bread sitting near the TV.
We explained who we were and where we were taking her. She explained she’d been staying at the motel on a weekly rate but was now out of money so a the Salvation Army in Bedford was going to put her up in a motel in Bedford for the night. Lauren and I carried her trash bags to the church van. She followed us out and looked surprised at the tall step into the 15 passenger van. I said not to worry, that I would help her up. So there I stood pushing up on the back side of a larger, older woman who I did not know. Helping people is often an interesting experience and this was not the first time I’d pushed on the backside of some needing help.
We pulled through McDonalds to buy her some dinner and then drove to Bedford. Lauren and I talked to the lady about her life. She seemed very confused and a little delusional to be honest. She said she was moving around from place to place to stay away from some people. The best I could tell from her story, she had accidentally inherited some money that other people felt should have been their money. Now those people were after her so she was on the run. Of course, none of this was very believable although I do believe she believed it.
Lauren and I helped her get moved into her cheap motel room in Bedford, which was not a place I would have wanted to stay. We bought her some more food at a nearby gas station, unloaded her trash bags, Doritos and bread, and then said our bleesings and goodbyes to her.
When we were back in the van, Lauren said it was hard to believe people had to live this way. I agreed. I told Lauren what’s difficult for me is to imagine the amount of help and energy it would take to improve her life. It would take much in the way of money, time, energy, counseling, medication, housing and food. Honestly, it’s much more than any of us really could provide. And it’s somewhat depressing and discouraging to think how little we had actually done for her. But it was all we could do at that moment in time.
But I’ve learned over the years that this is okay. In the past, the fact that I couldn’t completely fix a problem would keep from doing whatever part I was capable of. When someone needed help, I would see it as a hopeless situation in which I couldn’t offer the help really needed and then I’d have trouble thinking of being a partial help to someone. It was all of nothing in my thinking. But I’ve changed my thinking over the past few years.
As in the situation at hand, I think the opportunity God placed in front of us was transportation, food and some loving conversation. That was what He asked of us and that is what we did. It didn’t fix her long term problems but God may be saving that task for someone else. I’ve been a part of some long term problem fixing for people and now I’m learning to be a part of small opportunities.
I’d like to ask you to consider being a part of small opportunities with the people around you. You may not meet any homeless people today but there are many people around you who need help everyday. I know our human nature is to complain that people got themselves into the messes they’re in or to complain that someone has so many problem in their life that you wouldn’t know where to begin helping. We make it an all-or-nothing situation when the truth is we could intentionally do many small things every day.
So jump in. Don’t wait till you’ve figured everything out. Do what you know is presented to you, even if it’s just a partial fix. If God adds up several small faithful acts, more of his will is done than we can see with our all-or-nothing eyes. I’ll bet this very day God will put small opportunities in front of you. Decide now that you’ll be looking for them and don’t be discouraged by the big picture problems. Take care of the small things in front of you.