I told you last week how Jamey put a sign up by the road asking for bagged leaves. I had grown accustomed to strangers (men) coming to my back door asking where we'd like the bags placed or leaves dumped. I had gotten used to keeping an eye on our driveway (clearly visible from our school room and kitchen) so no one would catch me off guard. I am mama bear, you know.
One day, I heard the rumble of a loud truck coming in our lane and looked out in time to see a beat-up light blue pick up truck pull in behind our house with leaves in the back. There was a knock at the door and I stepped outside to speak to (to my surprise) the young woman standing there. She must have been in her very early twenties. She was thin and dressed in outdated, worn clothes, including a thin flannel that could've been a man's. Her light, frizzy hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail.
She asked if we were buying bagged leaves. I said, "Oh, no. I'm so sorry, but we're only taking them if people just want to get rid of them." She said okay (but didn't offer me her leaves) and very politely asked if I would like to buy any eggs. Again, in my most apologetic tone I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. We have chickens," and I gestured out to the chicken yard where they were ranging. She followed my arm, glanced at the chickens, said thank you, and left.
The one thing I could not get over while speaking to her was the state of her upper teeth. Not only were they crooked, but where tooth met gum, there was blackness. Large, black splotches that unnerved me. "How does that happen?" I wondered, imagining a toothbrush never having entered a mouth like that. I felt so badly for her.
As soon as I heard her rumble out the driveway I felt wave after wave of instant regret. Why in the world didn't I buy leaves from her? Why didn't I buy some of her eggs? All of her eggs for that matter!? Who cares if I didn't need them? She clearly needed money. I was devastated and so very disappointed in myself to the point of feeling almost shame. What was wrong with me?
That young woman and my regret haunted me for the rest of the day.
That evening, after things calmed down, I recounted the story to Jamey, filling him in on all the details, including the state of her teeth. He reached for his laptop, pulled up some photographs and asked me if her teeth looked like the pictures. They did- they were almost identical. He told me that is was good I didn't give her any money. What she likely had was "meth mouth", a condition that occurs with heavy methamphetamine use.
My heart sank. My regret didn't abate, but shifted. I was now glad I hadn't given her any money, but I could have reached out in some way. I could have asked her name and gotten to know her a bit. I could have offered her some food- my pantry and freezers are overflowing! I could have told her that I was glad she stopped by and that I cared about her.
For awhile the guilt and regret was all I could see when I thought about her, but then just the other day something occurred to me. I don't know her name, but I know her face. I know she exists. And maybe, just maybe, God placed her in front of me just for those few seconds so her existence would leave a mark on me.
Maybe He placed her at my door so I could pray for her.
At the thought tears welled-up in my eyes and I began to pray. I didn't do many of the things I wish I would have, but with God as my witness, I'm going to pray for this young woman. And maybe that was the point of all this after all.
While we're thanking God for coming down to earth through His Son, Jesus, this season, let's not forget those who haven't met Him yet. Let's keep our eyes open and sharp. May God place before us those who need Him and instead of turning away, feeling regret or helplessness, let's pray for those that are lost.
My prayer is that one day this young woman and I will be standing shoulder to shoulder in front of The Throne of God, offering Him praise and thanksgiving.
Lord, let it be so.