Usually when you come by on a Saturday morning you can find me in the parking lot. I love to be there. The parking lot is the best place for engagement. It’s where the real opportunities to connect with people happen. Once they get inside, it becomes pretty focused on the task at hand. But in the parking lot, everyone is just waiting. It’s the place to really get to know someone. I really enjoy that. I never leave on a Saturday without being blessed by a conversation in the parking lot. Usually multiple.
Yesterday, I met a five-year old girl. She begins school in the fall. She’s extremely shy. And not excited. She lives with her granddaddy. And she loves to look at books. I couldn’t get a name out of her, not at first anyway. Couldn’t even get her to look at me. But when I sent her inside to our bookshelf and told her she could have whatever she wanted...I got to see a smile. I’ll settle for that.
I got to meet a sixth grader. Monrovia Middle School...huge transition. She’s not nervous. Or not willing to admit it. I haven’t decided which. Her mom gave her the same combination lock she used when she was in middle school. Taught her how to open it and everything. Made her feel better. Having a part of my mom with me every day probably would have made me feel better too.
I met a mother of a little girl from my school. Single mother. Her job barely pays the bills. She walked up in the parking lot, “You have no idea how much this helps out with her snacks and stuff during the summer time!” You know what? She’s right, I probably don't have any idea. But I am glad to be a part. She hugs me, “Have a great week.”
I continued to stand there in that parking lot, waiting for what was next. I see two volunteers standing at a car with another lady. The three of them holding hands together...different races, different ages, different motivations for coming this morning...but uniquely brought to that circle together by the Spirit of God. They motion me over. I join the circle.
Three mothers. One facing an unbearable tragedy. She just lost her first born, her only daughter. It’s been less than a week. She was out with some friends and drugs were involved. Someone in the mix raised the stakes and brought a hardcore opiod. It was her first time. Fatal overdose. Left behind two little girls.
On some level, I have a hard time understanding. But at the same time, I get it. It happens so easy. And once the spiral begins, for many of us, there is no stopping the momentum. We just don’t know how. I think that manifests itself in all of our lives, just in different ways. For one person it might be controlling emotions, for the next it might be an unhealthy marriage relationship, and for the next it might be escaping from the world through drugs.
I have seen enough this year to know that it is a unifier. All of us can relate. We have all been touched by the tragedy. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, the income of your home, or the number of people it impacts. And I guess that is why those three really different women were able to come together yesterday and hold hands in that parking lot. And I guess that is why two strangers can stand in that circle together and can cry tears of pain for that lady that they don’t even know and her daughter that they never even met.
It’s really hard to stand there with that mother in that moment. It’s really hard to know what to say. And how to say it. Most of us like to feel sympathy from a distance. But what if nobody in her life is available to give it to her? Or what if everyone in her life excuses themselves because they don't know how to either? What if there isn’t anybody who cares enough to be interrupted?
One of the things I have learned that I was completely unaware of before is how much ministry there is for each of us to do all around us every day. I pray for eyes to see what God sees. I pray for a heart that breaks where His breaks. I pray for opportunity to minister wherever He needs me to around me...no matter what it looks like. I pray to not be too busy, too self-centered, too ambitious, too insensitive, or too intimidated to be used by God. Help me, Father, to just be more like Jesus and less like this crazy world around me because I need You and lots of other people do too.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36