"My Name Is Bill" : Story From A Homeless Heart, Part One

Sitting in quiet. Girls are in bed. Warm coffee to my side. Nothing but the music overhead putting them to sleep. I treasure time with them. I often wonder what normal life would look like for me had my path led me differently. Normal life could have easily led me into marriage again. Quickly. Years ago. Children. House. Dogs. Homework. Late nights with sick children. Rocking them. The feel of a baby snuggled up next to me. I crave that sometimes. And I'm not convinced it's not in my future. Not convinced that it is. That's the tricky part about surrender. It's not up to you. What "normal" women wouldn't want all of that? Some people envy my life. But would they if they lived it? Would they sacrifice what it would take to have it? Sometimes I envy their lives. Sometimes I don't. Somehow I believe there is room for both: The life of the mission field and the life of the family. Is that normal? No. Not even remotely. But it doesn't mean it's not possible. It just means it's harder, and

I am learning that we don't do hard very well in our culture. We do easy. We do quick. We do acceptable. We do normal. But hard and unselfish and humility and out of the ordinary. We don't do well. Why? Two reasons: We don't have to because we are Comfortable and We are Afraid. Simple as that.

There is a homeless man in Nashville who has no legs. He is around 60 years old. The night before I left to go to Haiti last year, it was raining. Hard. I was running to the bank for a last minute ATM cash run for travel needs. And I saw him. Barely able to see out of my window, I caught glimpse of him. He was in the corner of an old abandoned building, under an awning. Soaking wet. My mind immediately went to the Haitian people that I would be seeing from the earthquake. Hearing stories of amputated limbs with no anesthetic. Women. Children. Men. I was drawn to him. Turning around I drove up next to him and rolled down my window, "Are you ok? Do you need anything?"

"NO, Honey!" Big sweet grin, "I am just fine. Just trying to stay out of the rain a little bit." He was there in his wheelchair. Pants legs as ghosts below his knees. Nothing. He seemed helpless. And he was drenched. "Are you sure? Maybe I can take you somewhere or call someone who can take you somewhere dry and safe." "NO, Honey!" I am just fine" I left knowing that maybe he WAS fine. But I wasn't.

Something penetrated my spirit that night. Something deep in my soul. I knew there were new horizons that God was going to lead me into. And I was afraid. And I was uncomfortable. But I didn't care.

I returned from DR Congo last week. Over two saturated weeks of hearing stories of child abductions, crying tears of injustice for young girls who have been raped, abduction by rebel forces being re-enacted by the very children forced to be soldiers. Overwhelmed at the need we found there and bursting at the seams to put things in place to make that happen. Wonderful Weariness I call it. But it is wearisome nonetheless. Jetlagged sprinkled with an intense skin allergic reaction to an "African something"  left me pretty much in a bed of misery (for me) for a week. First day back, behind at work, I dropped by RedBox at McDonald's on my way home to watch a movie as I caught up on things at home. Long day and I was tired.

I looked to my right. He was there. Same man. Same wheelchair. Same smile. I couldn't believe it was him! I stopped and smiled at him - of course he didn't remember me. Taking my movie, I walked over. It was cold.

"Do you need anything? Can I help you with anything? /

"NO, Honey! I am fine! Might could use a cup of coffee. It's 49 cents inside. It may warm me up." /

"That's all you need? No food? You aren't hungry?" /

"NO, Honey! I am fine! Just a cup of coffee might be good to warm me up. It's 49 cents inside."

I go in and get him the largest cup of black coffee they had and took it back out to him. Hands miserably chaffed, he put his beer can down to grab the coffee. Face chapped and red. Disheveled. Joyful. Truly. "Thank you, ma'am!" I smiled at him in adoration.

"What is your name?" I asked. "Bill, my name is Bill. What's yours?" "It's Beth or Bethany. Either is fine." "Oh that 'Bethany' may be hard for me. But I can call you Beth." .... I would love that. I gave him a God bless you and went back to my jeep. Taking about 5 seconds to soak that in.

Sitting in my car. Just returning from one of the most dangerous places on earth to live, to help believe in and bring life 100s of children of war - I saw Bill. Where?

Right in front of me

Where was he the night before I flew to Haiti?

Right in front of me.

I look down at my hands and I notice that, strangely, they are

Right in front of me.

I have understood the good samaritan like I have never in my life. There is one message in that story that screams to me. The Wounded One was no where but right in front of them. Every Single One of Them.

They did not have to search for their purpose or calling or passion in life. They just had to start with what was Right. In. Front. Of. Them!

But there was only one to come to pick him up, bandage his wounds, and lead him to safety. He didn't have to fly across oceans or battle customs or fear gun shots in the middle of the night. He just had to begin. And help the man. One person. At at time.

Right in front of him.

The reason we don't? For me - its because I am either looking past them at where I am going or feeling hopeless that a difference can be made. In our corporate mindset of making all things streamlined and running efficiently, we seem to forget that human nature trumps what is optimal. And Life happening doesn't fit well into spreadsheets.

You see, until we are in Nam and our legs are amputated in the war and the addiction to pain killers came upon us like a thief in the night and alcohol became our only friend because who wants to take care of a crippled man and, then, we find ourselves outside of McDonald's simply asking for a cup of coffee to keep us warm. If we can't find the answer to find a home and shelter and locate his family and set him up on disability and a rehabilitation center in order to make all things neat and tidy in our box of entitlement - then should we do nothing? If we cannot fix the broken pieces completely and perfectly - then should we just always let the chips fall where they may? And just where will they fall? Where?

I believe the answer is not even remotely found in making all things fit together perfectly. That's not our job or role. It's definitely our part to try to play in the answer. But the answer is also found in looking down at that moment to the man on the side of the road we are passing. The Jewish Man. The lonely lady in the elevator who is a single mom. The refugee center who needs someone to teach them English. The flower that would light up your wife's life for today. The second it takes to bend down and look into your child's face to say "You are important to me." Does it fix everything? Not a chance.

But maybe it's not in the fixing.

Maybe it's more about the mending. The momentary mending that Jesus' love is heard the loudest and seen in the most radiant of colors.

"My name is Bill. I don't know if I will remember yours or not, ma'am." Me, smiling "You don't have to." Feeling that cup of coffee he allowed me to give him was much more of a treasure to me than it was to him. I say this often. Life is not easy doing this as a single women. Cravings for family and a partner and some sense of normality run deep. But there is one thing it is. One thing above any other. Worth it. At least for now. Oh, there in one more thing it is:

An Absolute Privilege. Such a privilege to be able to be the hands and feet of God. Pitiful as they may be. They are......

His, b