Luke 21:1-4 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
We lived in a hotel for six weeks after our house burned down in the wildfires. Then, one year in a rental after that. We embarked on the process of rebuilding right away, making and submitting plans to our homeowners association, submitting claims to our insurance company, then decided we were better off to purchase an extensively damaged fire house to have stability and permanence more quickly for our children.
During those six weeks in the hotel, we ate a lot of fast food, helped the children with homework at a very small table, our college son slept on the floor when he visited, made personal property lists for our insurance company, and struggled to keep our pets, cat and rat, separated.
Every little thing seemed like such a struggle- a child asking for a ruler, stapler, scotch tape, pen/pencil, colored pencil, colored paper just to complete one homework assignment (and we have four kids!), getting the mail, traversing the complex insurance claim morass, dealing with mortgage company inquiries, getting refills on prescriptions that burnt up, lacking the luxury of shopping clearance and sales because needs of clothing and office were immediate, new checks, duplicate bills, transferring our phone number, cancelling cable and sewer. And, sometimes the people involved were as challenging as the problem- pharmacies did not want to refill prescriptions, the mortgage company thought the mortgage should simply be paid in full, immediately, emails never received obviously went unanswered each creating a mini-drama. Succulent plants that survived the fire were dug up and stolen off our burned up lot. River rock taken too. And rakes, shovels, garden hoses purchased to hose off blackened trees and driveway. Anything we purchased to restore some order to our lot.
At the same time, people stepped up in remarkable ways to assist us. Showed up unannounced. Helpful. Caring. Sincere. Wanting to know how to help.
The mother of our son’s friend, someone I had never met, called me one day. She introduced herself and asked if we would like some homemade soup to enjoy at our hotel. Homemade chicken noodle soup. The hotel suite had a small refrigerator, microwave, and even a very small stove. But, with four kids and the burners so close to the refrigerator and one child autistic, cooking was not a safe option. Eating unprocessed food was so important to his diet, a luxury abandoned when we fled the fire to the safety of a hotel. Yes, yes, I answered, and explained to her how valuable a contribution to his wellbeing she would be making and plus how appreciative all of us would be to eat something homemade. Even the kids had grown tired of McDonald’s and pizza. Michelle brought us a large container of homemade chicken noodle soup, big noodles, chunks of carrot and chicken, celery, just the right seasoning. Not that we would have been picky. At all. But, that said, this was some good soup. Medicinal, full of love, caring. We felt it. We ate it. We truly appreciated the soup and her and her sacrifice in making us a home cooked meal.She called to check in and see if we enjoyed the soup. Yes, yes, I answered. Thank you, thank you oh so much. Would you like more, she asked. Yes, yes. But, only if it is not too much trouble. I hesitated. We really would appreciate more, but only if it is not too much trouble. Of course not.
I would love to, she answered. This Thursday. I will stop by with more soup on Thursday. Thursday came and went and with trying to gain some semblance of normalcy living in a hotel room, we did not completely notice though in the back of my mind I thought of her and her generosity. Friday, no soup. That is okay, I thought to myself. How generous she has been already. I will put it out of my mind. Saturday morning, a knock on the door and a frenzied, friendly, Michelle popped in with an even bigger container of homemade soup. I am so sorry, she explained. I should not have told you I would return on Thursday. I had to wait until I got paid on Friday in order to have the money to purchase the ingredients for the soup.
I won’t ever forget that moment. The realization that someone you barely know is giving you all the extra they have, and probably quite a bit more. Dipping into their resources, living check to check, modest means, employed but just scraping by, like so many people, each and every day. She gave us everything and then spent her time cooking, wrapping it with a bow, sealing it with love, sending it off to us, the family of a friend of her young son.
And it carried us and nourished us and lifted our spirits. The gift great, the care profound.
We met people like that all throughout our recovery. People that would give you all that they had, and more if you let them. Angels, guides, mentors, friends, God’s gift, each day, each hour, availing, arms stretched out, beckoning. Hope. In a container of soup. Warmed. Homemade hope.
You feel it, you know it, even if you are not quite sure exactly what it is. But, as it warms you and carries you and comforts you and in that blanket and cloak of protection, you no longer need an explanation.
And, you know, clearly, without rationale, that there is more at work than just the moment, the words, the accidental or purposeful meeting. God is present, palpable.
Encouragement, light. Hope, in soup.
The purest dose of hope is granted when someone gives you all that they have to give.
We can serve and be served. Witness and bear witness. Any time. Any place. Using the tools of desire and heart.
Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
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