Today could have been an ordinary day.
It had all the makings of one.
It took us 3 hours to leave the house. My kids ate so many snacks, I wished I had just fixed them a homemade, 5-course dinner (I’m convinced that would have been faster.) By 9 am, my 3-year-old had already threatened to run away. (Dear God, help us when she is 16!)
Like I said … Ordinary day.
But as my family made our ever-late way to the YMCA, I made a split second decision to drive the “other way.” As Robert Frost might say, I took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.
(I have a feeling Frost’s road less traveled did not lead him to a gym where he scarfed down his kids’ ice cream. I always fancied his road to be a little more altruistic.)
Before we talk about the end of this road, let me explain how this all went down.
We were traveling our “road less traveled” down Ridgetop in Silverdale. And if you don’t know what Ridgetop looks like during a busy day, just picture those little minute-long timers, where there’s a huge bulb of sand, and it all has to trickle down the narrow passageway to the bottom, grain by grain.
That was us. Grain-by-graining it down the overtrafficked road to the Y.
When suddenly, I see a sweet old woman sitting on a stool on the side of the road.
She wasn’t dirty. She looked like she had bathed properly. She was fitted in a black overcoat, and a sugar-sweet smile on her face. Lines trenched their way up, down and around her face. I didn’t know wrinkles could be endearing. These were.
She held a sign.
I made up my mind. I wanted to go the gym, my workout time had already dwindled, and I didn’t want to be inconvenienced.
But as I inched forward, and saw her face once again, I couldn’t keep going. “Any kindness . . . ”
This woman could have been my grandma.
I could be kind.
I pulled into the adjacent parking lot, and walked over to her.
“Ma’am,” I started. “Are you hungry?”
She briefly startled, as she didn’t see me approach. But her warm smile quickly returned. “Actually, yes, I am hungry!”
“I can get you food,” I said. “What sounds good?”
“Can I please have chicken strips? And a big coffee, tall-like, with cream and sugar, and a straw, so I can just suck it right out the top.”
“Of course! And would you also like some fries?”
After finalizing her order, I
zipped … er crawled … sat in line to get back on the road forever, then attempted to turn left, then FINALLY made it to Dairy Queen.
No matter how healthy I try to be with my kids, they LOVE fast food. I joked with Ryan the other day that we could take our kids to Disney World, and they would say, “Well, it’s fun and all. But it’s not a McDonald’s.”
So Leyla naturally realized we were in line at a fast food joint, and loudly, repeatedly asked for food. I knew I had just fed them a billion snacks before we left, but after ordering and waiting in line to pay, I finally decided to give in. How could I feed a stranger and not feed my own kids?
I ordered an additional meal for my kids, which came with an ice cream. Not thinking about the fact that my kids are lactose-intolerant, I ordered the ice cream, all the food, and attempted to make my way back into the sand trap.
Exactly at that time, my dear friend Stevie texted me this message:
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
When I first saw her text, I read it as this:
Do not be overwhelmed with evil, but overwhelm evil with good.
It was the perfect verse, and the perfect misconstruction of that verse, at the perfect time.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed with evil. Don’t you? There are SO many pan handlers. SO many foster kids. SO many bereaved parents. SO many refugees. SO many people who need our help.
And it can get so overwhelming, we just get stuck. We let evil incapacitate us. Because we can’t help them ALL, we don’t help any.
As I crawled back onto the road, finally turning back into the parking lot, and loading this woman up with chicken, fries, ice cream and a coffee with a tall straw so she can sip it up just like so, I knew that I had, in my own little way, overwhelmed evil that day.
That woman’s smile remained just as bright. Gratitude just doesn’t seem a big enough word for her response. And she reached up at me with her hands and said, “I just need a hug.”
And so I hugged that old lady just like I could have hugged both my grandmas in heaven. This was no courtesy hug, but a hug that intended to tell her everything I felt at that moment. “You are important. You are valuable. You are loved. You are precious.” A hug that last longer than most people hug, but I knew I’d probably only hug this woman once in our lives, and it needed to count.
I told her she was loved.
And I walked back to my car, knowing that in the history of my life, I’ll always remember the woman on the side of the street whom I fed chicken and coffee, and hugged her as though I were hugging my own grandma. But I probably would never have remembered the day that I went to the Y, worked out, and came home to our normal routine. My original plans, my friends, would never have made it to the history books of my mind.
As I made my way to the gym, I wish I had said more. I wish I had asked her name. I wish I had prayed for her. I wished I had asked to take a photo with her, so I could remember her face.
But I had to be OK with the little I did.
As we parked, I looked around my car, and sure enough, there was an Oreo blizzard staring back at me. My kids, still lactose-intolerant, could not eat the ice cream. This my friends, is a real conundrum.
The whole “overwhelm evil” thing had taken a chunk of time out of my workout time. I had a choice. I could rush in the to gym, workout, and come back to a cup of melted (probably-not-real) ice cream with chocolate wafers and cream (that really isn’t cream.)
Or I could sit her and scarf down the blizzard as fast as I could, before rushing off to burn only a portion of the calories I had just consumed, while a buff guy in the parking spot over gawked on.
I’ll let you take a guess as to what I did next. 😉
I share this story not to say, “look at me!” Please, do NOT look at me. I’m just a normal girl. But God’s got this thing about normal people, and when you and I just say “YES”, our ordinary becomes extraordinary. I encourage you today, don’t get overwhelmed with evil. But overwhelm evil with good. And in the wise words of a dear lady I once met,
Any kindness helps.