It could have been any time of the year but it was Christmas -- The Season of Giving. As I maneuvered the traffic congestion of last-minute shoppers, my car was loaded down with bags of groceries, gifts and a full tank of gas.
She stood at the corner, a scarf wound tightly around her head shielding her from the frigid wind and snowy weather. Only her haunting eyes were visible. I would guess she was about 16 years old.
Her sign read: "I'm cold. I'm hungry. Do you have anything to give?"
I gasped as I took in the obvious contrasts. I sat in warmth; she stood in the cold; my car was filled with extravagance; she was hungry. I felt convicted at the injustices of life.
I drove by.
Two seasons later, I still wonder about her. Where is she? Did someone help her? I hope so.
Recalling this event, I wonder why my heart still responds emotionally and spiritually.
Matthew, Sheila and Dennis Linn's research reveals that some people who have had near-death experiences, received forgiveness and love from the very people they had injured or neglected. Wow! Some say they experienced a simple act of kindness rippling out bringing healing to the far corners of the earth. These life-review events stand out as monumental, even though they seemed of little significance at the time they occurred.
Frederick Buechner wrote: "I have it in me at my best to be a saint to other people, and by saint I mean life-giver, someone who is able to bear to others something of the Holy Spirit, whom the creeds describe as the Lord and Giver of Life. Sometimes, by the grace of God, I have it in me to be Christ to other people. And so, of course, have we all -- the life-giving, life-saving, and healing power to be saints ... maybe at rare moments even to ourselves. I believe that it is when that power is alive in me and through me that I come closest to being truly home."
I did not feel at home as I drove by that day. Rather, I felt remorse at the fact that I was even capable of driving by.
"What happened to me?" I asked myself.
I, who grew up in poverty, never once saw anyone standing in the cold, hungry and without shelter.
I asked myself "Who is the poor one in this situation -- me or the teenager standing in the cold?"
As far as being a bearer of gifts, this young woman gifted me by piercing my immune heart. I see her in every marginalized person I encounter today. I am moved to respond more frequently because of her, and each time I do, I feel a little more at home.
-- Cathy Rhoads is a Certified Catholic Chaplain offering private spiritual guidance and counseling. She attends Christ the King Church in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.