Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Putting Things Into Perspective

We interrupt the regularly scheduled program for a special announcement ...

Hunter's third tooth, the top left one, has finally broken through! WHEW!

After much startling screaming, and unrelenting, unexplainable crying, we now know why! Poor baby. And ... I'm off to put some bananas into the freezer, thanks to Jeana and Sarah! Yo, baby! No more crying, 'kay?

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

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When we returned from our vacation, we walked into a very, very hot house. No big deal. We expected that, because my husband told the friend of ours that fixed our AC while we were away on vacation to set it at 85 degrees (what was my husband thinking?). So, my dear husband said he'd lower the air to 72, and it'd be cool in no time. Except for one thing. The AC didn't kick in. And when we finished unloading the car, it was over 90 degrees in the house. So, my husband wandered down to take a look at the unit, and stepped into a puddle of water in our carpet. Ugh! The unit was broken again. So he called our friend again, jiggled a few wires, hit a few buttons, and realized that he had just blown out the circuit board, and there.would.be.no.air.

So, we went out to dinner and discussed our options... one of which was going to spend the night at my in-laws home (who we had just spent an entire week with), which meant packing the car back up again. Not an easy task with a 9 month old (yes, he really is 9 months old now). While we were eating (and honestly, I was lamenting, because I.wanted.air.now... and because I had yet to go to the grocery store), our friend called us and asked my husband to try a few more things. I quietly prayed during dinner that the Lord would reach down and heal our air conditioner. I had done this before when a friend was out of the country. They were renting their home out, and the AC broke down. I laid hands on it and prayed over it, and it started working again. It happened another time at my sister-in-laws house when the heater (or something like that) broke down, I laid hands on it, prayed over it, and it worked. So, why not ours?

We went straight home (again ... skipping the dreaded task of grocery shopping). My husband called his friend,who talked him through "hard wiring" the unit to by-pass the circuit board (or something like that). And, it worked. Praise God, the AC started blowing sweet, cold air into our home once again. He referred my husband to someone that works on our type of unit, and we made arrangements for them to come over on Monday to work on the unit. But in the mean time, we.had.air.thank.you.Jesus. He does answer prayers, even if it's a "by-passed, temporary fix."

Sunday afternoon, we set out to the grocery store. Since it was close to dinner time, I suggested we eat first, and not shop on empty stomachs. After dinner, we finally stepped into the grocery store. We walked through the whole store, replenishing our very bare and empty cupboards and refrigerators. Hunter fell asleep towards the end, so we kept trading off carrying him (man, that child weighs a ton when he's dead weight!).

We pulled up to the register, started unloading our groceries, and ... that's when it all started. The couple in front of us were from somewhere in Central America. They had a toddler, maybe 2 years old, in the cart. They had about 6 gallons of milk, 3 or 4 dozen eggs, 2 large packages of cheese, some canned apple juice, and some dried black beans on the conveyor belt. I noticed this as I placed my wild salmon, white fish, pot roast, chicken breasts, ground turkey, fresh fruits, fresh and frozen vegetables, yogurt, milk, etc. on the conveyor belt next to them.

In fact, I'm certain that's what they had, because I had to wait impatiently (and just a wee bit annoyed) for more room on the conveyor belt so that I could load up my cleaning supplies, dozens of bottles of baby food, diapers, wipes, toothpaste, etc. onto the conveyor belt. Why in the world was the cash register lady re-arranging everything on the conveyor belt? Just ring it up, pay, and be done with it. That's when I noticed that the couple next to me did not speak any English, and the cash register lady, and the manager on duty were trying to communicate something to her.

Now, there's something you should know about me. I speak Spanish fluently. It was the first language I learned. My mother is from Lima, Peru, and I was raised speaking Spanish until I went into kindergarten, and while I have one parent from South America, I have another parent, my dad, who is a mixture of Irish, French Canadian, American mutt, so I don't even resemble the Spanish part of me ... I got the Irish part ... very white skin that BURNS in the sun, ruddy complexion, 5'9 with brown hair and brown eyes. Regular joe-schmoish, if you ask me. Now, some of you already know this little factoid about me, but what you may not know is, when you don't use a language skill regularly, you get rusty, which in turn can make you feel very self conscious, and cause you to shy away from speaking it. Grammar was never my strong spot anyway, and I learned many Spanish words in a child-like manner, which would embarrass me to no end if I inadvertently said the child-learned word instead of the correct word. So, I usually don't let on that I know Spanish. Plus, it's sometimes very difficult for me to understand the dialects from Central America. South American dialects are just fine, but Central American dialects are more like "street language" and they talk entirely too fast. Sort of like the difference between a New Yorker and a Texan. Anyway, my husband, on the other hand, is so proud that his wife is bi-lingual, and wants the world to know about it. He would shout it from the roof tops if he could, but he knows I'd kill him if he did.

Back to the story -- I slyly glanced over to the couple in front of us, and realized that they were using government issued checks to pay for their food. Probably WIC. So, I felt torn. Should I help them out, possibly embarrassing them, or should I keep to myself? I was totally keeping my head down and my eyes glued to the items in my cart. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my husband trying to get my attention. I leaned over to him and explained my dilemma. Understanding crossed his eyes. He thought for a few minutes, and suggested that I offer my help to them. So, I did.

It was then that the full meaning of what was happening slapped me full in the face. They were trying to pay with expired checks. They didn't realize they were expired. They spoke no English, and were relieved that someone could help them, but they were devastated that they could not pay with the checks they had. That meant no "food" for them. I felt awful asking them, but I had to know if they could read. They assured me that they could, so I slowly explained to them about the dates on the check -- the "spend from" date and the "check expires on" date. I'm pretty sure they understood.

I turned to my husband, and whispered to him, begging him to allow me to offer to pay for their groceries. He said, "No way! They have so much up there!" So, I stepped back to my spot, and the cash register person suggested that they might have more checks in the envelope they were holding. So, I went through all the papers they had, and we did indeed find more checks. All the while, God was working on my husbands heart, and he leaned over and said that he didn't realize what little they actually had, and that we could pay for what ever they couldn't pay for.

I was so relieved to know that if they didn't have enough checks to pay for their bill, that we would pick it up for them. Then, it dawned on me to ask if they realized that they didn't have to spend all the checks at one time, and didn't have to get 6 gallons of milk right now, because it might go bad. That's when they told me that they had three other kids at home. My heart broke for them. They were humble people, trying to find a new life in a new country, without being able to speak the language.

They paid for their groceries, thanked me, and left. I started to pray for that family immediately. They left such an impression on my heart, but it wasn't until after everything happened, and until after I had paid for my own bountiful groceries that what happened slapped me in the face. And slap me hard, it did.

This humble couple had 4 children. And they were taking home 6 gallons of milk, 3 or 4 dozen eggs, 2 large packages of cheese, some canned apple juice, and some dried black beans to make meals out of for their family. For their children. And, for all I knew, they probably didn't have any air conditioning, and their children were hot and uncomfortable, as well as malnourished. At this point, I was standing behind our car, loading the groceries into it, and I just started to cry. My heart was truly broken for them. I felt so humble to have been able to help them in such a small way. I only wish there was more I could have done for them. I got into the car, and my husband was just as shaken as I was. For some reason, all of this didn't "come together" in our minds until we were out of the grocery store. I wish I could have done more for them. I would have given them bread, meat, fruit, vegetables. If only I had connected everything in the store.

But, out of all of this, you know what struck me the most? Their joy. Even though they were in an embarrassing situation, and even though they were eating minimally, and even though they didn't have anything, and even though they didn't speak the language, the interaction with their toddler in the cart, and between themselves was joyful. Thankful. Appreciative.

This family has been burned into my heart. I don't know their names, but I would recognize them in a minute. It felt good to help them. I hope they felt nothing more than kindness and compassion from me, because I did not wish to embarrass them ... but I wish I had the chance to ask them if they had jobs, or if maybe he did yard work, or if maybe she would watch children, or do housekeeping, or anything like that. I wish I could have offered them an opportunity to earn extra money. My husband and I have prayed that God would cross their path with ours again, because most importantly, I want to make sure I have the opportunity to share Christ with them.

And here I am complaining about not having air conditioning for a few days, and about not getting to the grocery store right away when I needed to! It certainly put things in perspective.

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Luke 9:36

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:10

I hope you have the chance to do good for someone this week!

21 comments:

Melissa said...

Wow, amazing testimony! I find that when I get to feeling too big for my britches & complain about what I think I should have, God reminds me of the things I DO have!

Thanks for the reminder. Love your blog!

Susanne said...

Excellent post! I'm like that too, not connecting the dots immediately in a situation, until afterwards. And sometimes I need these reminders of perspective. Thanks for posting this!

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

What a touching post. My eyes are all misty thinking of what that family, and so many others, go through. Finances can stress me out so much - but I know I have so much in comparison. Thanks for the perspective - I needed it today. I will pray for that family too. The Lord had you there for a reason.

Overwhelmed! said...

What a touching post. Bless you for trying to help in that point in time. I pray that you do run into them again and have the chance to see if there's more help that can be offered.

You are a kind and gentle soul, Gibee!

org junkie said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting me. I've been reading your blog for awhile and really enjoy your messages. Today's post was amazing and made even more amazing that by you posting it you are touching so many other lives in the process as well. I have those moments myself all the time where its not until afterwards that I really realize what just happened and wish I could have done more. However in your case I think you did what you were suppose to do. God put you in that line at that time for a reason. Just think if your ac hadn't gone you would have gotten groceries a lot earlier in the day. Isn't that something!

flipflop said...

Great story.

Just Another Day In Paradise said...

I love your blog and how you openly share your faith! I pray often for God to keep my eyes open for ways to touch other lives throughout the day. It's so easy to just go about your day and not see the possibilities! Thanks for the reminder!

Heather Smith said...

I'll be praying for them now as well! Thanks for sharing this!

Chappyswife said...

Ah, Gibee. I would feel that way, too. My husband would be the first to point out that things may not be as bad as they seem for that family. We just never know, but in any case, things will be better for them, I'm sure, because you have just informed a wonderful network of women who would feel honored to say a prayer of blessing & salvation for them. So you've done even more to help. And you may actually see them again if you shop at the same store.

momrn2 said...

So you to help them and want to do even more! Definately does put things into perspective!! Thanks for the reminder that it is not always about me!!

Morning Glory said...

GiBee, that's such a beautiful story. The really neat thing is that even though you feel like you should have done more, what you DID do was help them and allow them to keep their dignity. God will use that experience for all of you in a really special way, I'm sure.

GiBee said...

I just wanted to mention that my husband is a very VERY generous man, but he is also very level headed, and we had just gotten back from vacation, and didn't have a lot of extra money (especially not knowing how much the AC repair would cost).

Any way, I am so thrilled by all the new people leaving comments! Thank you so much! Melissa, Org Junkie, My Little Corner of the World, and Chappy's Wife ... Thank you for jumping out of lurkdom. I love your comments -- they are so encouraging. I can't wait to start reading your blogs.

That reminds me that I need to clean out and update my favorites!!!

kpjara said...

No one who has ever read even one of your posts would doubt your heart and soul is FOR people!

By the same token use the gift of language (tongues) you have sister, whenever you can!

God bless you friend

Mama Duck said...

Great post - just wanted to say congrats on the tooth, we are working on two-year molars here, what a nightmare!!

sarah said...

GiBee, I came over to ask how the frozen bananas worked for your little teether, and I'm so glad I did. Your experience in the grocery store was a great reality check. Those of us fortunate enough to have our basic needs taken care of so often take things for granted. But I don't want my reaction to this story stop at gratitude for what I have. Like you and your husband are now desiring, I want my gratitude and love for God to propel me into serving those around me, especially those in need. I pray that you will be blessed in your desire to minister to this couple. May the Lord make your paths cross again, and soon.

Oh, and how did the frozen bananas work out?

Tammy said...

That is a wonderful testimony. A life lesson...thank you so much for posting it!
Blessings to you!
~Tammy

Shalee said...

What a wonderful story to share. God really is at work in you and your hubby. I, too, am going to pray that you run into those people again. God will make a way for you, I bet.

And don't should on yourselves... This case may be just what you needed to be ready for the next time around.

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing!!! Wow, what a challenge! I'm praying God allows you to get in contact with them again!

Mama D said...

Such a great story. We do need to be thankful for our blessings don't we.

aggiejenn said...

You are so open and transparent; it is refreshing. Thank you for sharing this story. It's such a good reminder to look around us...people are hurting and in need everywhere.

PEZmama said...

It seems to me that people who have less "stuff" are better at the art of joyfulness, as if they have a better handle on what really matters. This is a great post and a great reminder to keep things in perspective.