Last winter, my small group had the chance to spend time at a local homeless shelter every few weeks. Although each visit was a unique experience of broadening our perspectives, one night in particular right around Christmas is pressed well into my memory.
We brought some crafts and games for the families, as well as some simple gifts that the parents could pick from to give to their children. We got to paint some of the young girls’ nails, and after seeing some of the moms’ eyes light up at that, we were pleased to paint their nails as well. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl, but for this occasion I played the part of professional manicurist as well as I could.
Even though in previous visits I really enjoyed playing with the kids, that night I felt God was challenging me to spend time with the parents. Kids are kids no matter what language they speak, which socioeconomic place they come from, or where they lay their sweet heads at night. For me, at least, it’s much less intimidating to play freeze dance, color pictures, and be silly with them than it is to engage in meaningful conversation with their parents. Despite my very rusty Spanish, other language barriers, and a variety of people coming from different walks of life, our Heavenly Father had orchestrated something incredible for me.
A woman I met told me pieces of her story. She moved to the U.S. from Honduras years ago to work and send every extra penny she could back to her mother who was in treatment for breast cancer. Her husband had left the family unexpectedly, and moved away to Canada. In an attempt to get in touch with her biological father from Italy who she had never spoken to before, he told her to never call again because she would “ruin his reputation” with his current wife and kids. She had been recently laid off from her job of 4 years. She was a homeless, single, mother of two beautiful and bright kids, and by the world’s standards, had very little.
Yet this woman was strong-minded, humble and so gracious for every gift in life; her biggest ambition was to work hard and provide for her kids; she knew that there would be better days; she persisted in encouraging the other mothers in the shelter; she kept in mind that there were many who had it worse off; she declared her complete faith in a God who had provided for all her family’s needs. She preached to me how we need to be grateful for every single thing that we have.
She was someone who persevered through trials and came to understand what was truly important in this life we live. This life can be hard, but it is transient and not without warrant.
I was reminded of one of my favorite passages in Scripture:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Praise the Lord for perspectives like this!