I helped a family today. It felt good, but I'm not bragging--I promise. I was getting gas at Kroger and I saw them. They were those people with a sign asking for food and diapers. They had two toddlers out in the cold with them. I watched while I was pumping to see if they were getting any response from the people driving out of the parking lot. I noticed that they were not.
I didn't know what I was going to do exactly. I pulled up near where they were standing and said hello. I gave them a card for the food pantry run by my church and gave them an idea of where it was so that they could get the help they needed regularly. Then I asked if they would like to go inside and get a few things. I think there was some surprise, maybe because they thought the food pantry info was going to be it, maybe because they weren't getting much response from others, maybe because I was going to go in with them. I don't know, but the man sent his wife and one of the toddlers in with me while he waited in the beat-up van with their other little girl.
I asked for her name, and her daughter's name, and it became clear that English was difficult for her. I don't know what her native language was, but it wasn't Spanish--I could have managed some Spanish. I asked if they had a place to stay and if her husband has a job. I had to rephrase a little, but she eventually said yes and yes. It was that she recently had a baby and their money doesn't go far enough. So I gave her a cart and gestured for her to get what she needed. I didn't think about how awkward it would be in her position. She bravely asked, "How much?" I honestly didn't know! I mentioned diapers (since it was on the sign) and she quickly said, "No, food please!" David manages our budget, so I had no idea what we could spare. The thought occurred to me as I was standing there trying to think of a number that between our personal expenses and trying to open our restaurant that it might not be much. I blurted out "$50." (Then I quickly had to text David to find out if that was okay!)
She started in the produce section. She picked up some tomatoes and onions. As she hurried around the stands of food trying to decide what to do with her allotted amount I would hear her say, "No, cheaper." But then she made her way to the deli counter. She ordered two sides and a small box of chicken wings. I rationalized that this is what average people eat and that now was not the time to tell her about veganism. I didn't know when their last meal was, so she likely wanted something quick and easy for the kids. Then she roamed the aisles looking for "milano." I didn't realize what it was until she found a package of cookies! She didn't find the package she wanted however, so given the price she put them back. She looked for something for the baby that she couldn't find, then grabbed a case of water and made her way to the check-out counter. I looked at her cart and said, "That's not enough. That is not $50. Do you need more?" Then I suggested that if she wanted to make the food last that she maybe choose some potatoes, or rice, dry beans, or oats. I don't know how much she really understood.
I could tell this was a humbling experience for her; what she didn't know was that it was a humbling experience for me as well. She quickly ran back through the store and picked up potatoes, milk, bread and $15 in chicken legs. Her purchases came to just under $50. The meat was not what made it humbling--though, as I said, now was not a good time to tout veganism. It was watching her anxiously scurry through the store. The thought occurred to me as we checked out that I could have gone in and purchased a $50 gift card, handed it to them, and walked away. That would likely have been easier on the both of us. But, I think God blocked that thought until the end because I needed to see.
When you are starting a business cash flow is a major factor. David and I have been struggling with managing our cash flow for Vego lately (winter is a hard season for food trucks, so we are having a hard time recouping the cash lost during renovations). This in turn can put a strain on your personal finances as you try to supplement to cover the business needs. This causes anxiety. I am not a financial risk-taker. Starting any business is a huge risk! It has been a long time since I have experienced this kind of instability.
We are not rich by most American standards. We have been living in our "starter" home for over 10 years now. We need new flooring on the main level, we have much of the same furniture we had when we moved in, and the exterior needs some work. But we have been blessed in recent past to upgrade a few things including the kitchen. I have also been blessed enough to not have to worry about my grocery bill. I can fill up my gas tank when I need to. I have been putting off some needed doctor appointments because I am uninsured, but if I needed a prescription we could manage it. The bottom line is that I have been focused so much on my struggle, and my lack, that I forgot that I am blessed!
Again, the struggle has been real lately folks! I have been wrestling with God lately. Was this business venture a leap of faith, or a presumptive misstep? Either way, this business is taking all that we have! Our church's Bible study guide for this quarter (we get four a year) is about materialism and letting money and "stuff" get in the way of God's plan for your life. This lesson has been so timely for our family. David got a little choked up reading the passage in the Bible about the birds and the lilies not needing to worry under God's care (Matthew 6:25-34). I haven't seen that since before we were married! There has been so much stress! I have realized that I have been coveting the easy life of others. Why has God blessed them with so much? I told God that if I had more I would give more! But, I don't know if that was true.
Remember all those things around my house that need to be cared for, new furniture would be great, and I need to go to the doctor? None of these things are bad--the doctor is a legit need--but if I let these things get in the way of my relationship with God and the people around me that is bad. In the same Bible study we read about a community of believers that "gave beyond their ability" (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). I couldn't really wrap my brain around that at the time--I don't think God wants me to give away my house payment, right?
God knows my heart, and He knew that He had to put cold and hungry babies in my way to get me to see that giving is not dependent upon the abundance of your bank account, it is dependent upon the abundance of your heart. I have been gripping what I have so tightly, so afraid to lose my financial stability, that I have been closed off to a blessing and being a blessing--all the while crying out for a blessing! I am sure I am not cured of my selfishness, but now I see it so clearly. I will likely still struggle with worry and anxiety, but now I have a cure. My belated New Year's resolution is to give!