What I saw:
It’s my day off in 1994 and I have decided to play tourist in Old Town, Ft. Collins because normally I work there all day in a little high-end ladies’ boutique (That’s just a fancy way of saying a store for rich people). I have just finished visiting one of my favorite antique stores. I carefully pull from my pink plastic bag one of the antique handkerchiefs I have just purchased. It is the prettiest of the three, dainty with blue flowers and almost see-through; the kind of fabric I would imagine summer days to be fashioned from.
I am dreamily walking and admiring my purchase when I pass a homeless woman who I haven’t seen before. Not two steps after passing her, I hear God’s voice speak into my ear,
Give her your handkerchief.
I stop dead in my tracks and argue, “What does she need a handkerchief for, God?” (oblivious to the miracle of being spoken to by God). And He simply asks me again,
Give her your best handkerchief.
At first I refuse. The handkerchief is new and I haven’t even had time to fully enjoy it. After a minute, I turn around though and catch up with the 30 something year old woman (I myself am 24 at the time). I gently tap her shoulder and say, “The Lord would like you to have this with His blessing.” She looks surprised—shocked even. But she delicately handles the handkerchief and a softness comes over her like the first rain of summer. I am surprised. I am surprised because at that time in my life, I did not know that a homeless woman had the same needs that I had for pretty things and spontaneous gifts. I did not know that a homeless woman longed for home and heaven the way I did; I who had so much.
What God saw:
They are walking toward each other and they have never noticed each other until this day. They have both been neglected; one physically the other mentally. I love them both. Each will give a gift to the other this day. Neither will forget. One has just come from purchasing antique handkerchiefs because they comfort her memories of having been abused. She has no mother figure or grandmother in her life and is drawn to old things because they make her feel like she has an inheritance. She does not yet understand that I am her inheritance.
The other has just come from the shelter and found all of her garments missing; stolen. Her favorite lace blouse is gone from her bin. The one he gave her. The one she wore for him when he was alive. I watch as she leaves the sanctuary of the homeless shelter. I can feel her heart grip hard to her pride so she won’t cry in front of the street people.
She passes the young woman, a girl in her eyes, and I watch as she looks away quickening her step so the girl won’t see the tears pooling in the woman’s eyes; I see them. Mesmerized, I watch as relief slowly ebbs and flows as distance grows between herself, the girl and the shelter. I speak to the girl and ask her to deliver a gift from Me to the woman. I listen and watch as the girl considers the cost and I smile as she retraces her steps back toward the woman. She feels a touch on her shoulder and I hear her wonder, “Who would touch me?” She turns and is shocked to see the pretty young girl holding a handkerchief out to her, “the Lord would like you to have this with His blessing.” She takes the handkerchief and I watch as she struggles to look at the girl and thank her; the shame is so great.
My love grows for these two women as they go their separate ways. One, toward home and the other toward Town Park; they both wait until they are almost one block away from where they met to finally weep. They weep, thanking me for letting me love them. The girl’s heart is tender and she whispers, “I never knew how you loved us. I never noticed the poor until now. I didn’t know they had needs the way I do.” She doesn’t realize that the act of that gift to an older woman has prepared her to speak with her estranged mother who is also poor, but in spirit.
The older woman quietly sobs and the ache in her heart lessons as her mourning reaches me in my chamber. “Thank you,” she whispers as she uses the handkerchief to wipe away her tears. She says this to Me.
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; and the reproach of His people He will take away from off all the earth; for the Lord has spoken it. Isaiah 25:8