One day when I was in the 8th grade my father picked my sister and me up from school. I thought there was something wrong because we never get picked up. We always take the bus because we couldn’t afford the gas to go back and forth. My father assured there was nothing wrong but that something, or rather someone, was at home who was about to change our lives. He had been in Seattle that day on business.
On leaving his meetings he passed by a young woman on the street. He felt impressed that he needed to go back but passed the thought by. He felt the impression again and turned around and asked the young woman if she had had lunch. She hadn’t. So he took her to McDonald’s. As they sat and talked her story unfolded. She was mentally handicapped, with not much more capability and comprehension than an elementary school child. She had grown up in a troubled home where, partly because of her handicap, was abused and unloved. There were times she would run away. Times she was kicked out. She was now 18 and homeless. She hadn’t finished her schooling, but what did it matter, her life was going nowhere. My father felt that a McDonald’s meal would feed her but wouldn’t fill the true hunger that ravaged this young lady.
My father explained to us that this young lady was now at home, and would be sharing our room. But she came to share more than our room. She came to share our school, our church, our family pictures, our sorrows, our joys, our lives for many years. Years have passed and she’s gone on her way but the impact she’s had on our family hasn’t. When she joined our family, our hearts expanded to let her in. When she left, our hearts longed to fill that place. So others came: a man my father met at work came to stay while he could save money to send to his little girls. A woman who had a love for her cats but no money to rent a place allowing animals. A Russian gentleman fresh off the ferry but not sure where he was bound for. And, currently, a young single mother of two who lost her house the same week she lost her job.
Sometimes I note how we try to fill the tender place in our hearts the first homeless girl had left, but it’s a sacred place that can’t be occupied by another. So our hearts have just grown bigger and bigger to embrace the next person. It’s amazing to see and feel how much a heart can hold. Just when you think it is going to burst, God stretches it a little more. My father taught us that day in the car after school that it doesn’t take money to give. It takes heart.