Are you in the mood for a good story? A true story?
I took my 3 teenagers to Sal Val Wednesday evening. We had dentist appointments and pizza night lined up and they wanted to check out a few things and I wanted to find books, of course. (Once I picked up a brass piano light at Sal Val for a few bucks—to the envy of my piano tuner).
Anyway, I got up to the cash register and a woman who looked to be in her 20s appeared beside me—oversized yellow raincoat, jeans 5 sizes too large, and a thin sleeveless shirt under the raincoat. She was white but her face was beet red from being exposed to the cold. (It was in the 30s that day here). She plopped a turtleneck on the counter and said, “I’m cold. It’s really cold here.” She pulled out her eyeglass case with quarters inside to pay for her purchase.
“Do you know where I could find a place to stay for the night?” she asked.
One by one the counter help offered. As they talked, she took off her thin raincoat and proceeded to put the turtleneck on over her sleeveless T shirt, right there at the counter!
One Sal Val staff said, “York Hospital has a program where they put you up in a hotel for the night if you have nowhere to stay.”
“I heard Jackson Street,” said another.
“There’s the rescue mission.”
There were about 6 people behind the counter, including a manager.
“How do I get there?” the young woman asked. “Is there a bus?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
So they start giving her directions.
I said, “Wait a minute. This is Salvation Army and you are going to give her directions to the York Hospital and send her out in the cold to walk there? For miles?”
“I’m sorry ma’am, we are just a store. She’d have to go to the King Street Office and . . .”
“When does your office close?” I asked.
He looked sheepish. “Uh, in a few minutes.”
I said, “Listen, I know that you are doing your best as a store. But the heart of Salvation Army is to help people in need. At least you can make a phone call and arrange transportation for her?”
“Um, sorry, we can’t take her anywhere.”
“Just make a call? Put her on a bus going that way? Something?”
The woman behind the counter said, “I’m a pastor’s wife. I should know these things and where to send people like this.”
I smiled. “Yes, I’m a pastor’s daughter and I should know where to send people, too. The last time I did this I picked someone up outside your store and took them to Memorial Hospital.” (another story)
The homeless woman said, “Hey, I’m a pastor’s daughter, too.”
You should’ve seen the heads turn! I said, “OK, Honey. What’s your name?”
“Jackie.” (Not her real name).
I introduced myself and said, “Come with me. I’ll take you to York Hospital. All of us pastor’s wives and pastors kids have to stick together.” We said goodbye to the Sal Val folks, I introduced her to my kiddos in the van, and off we went.
In the van I asked, “How long has it been since you called your parents?”
“Uh, a few days.”
I gave her my cell phone and told her to call them. Her dad pastors a church in Colorado. She was so sweet on the phone and talked about Jesus. Her parents were worried of course, but she was in her 20’s and really out on her own. Nothing they could do to stop her.
Crazy story, eh? York Hospital had no such program and she’d have walked miles for nothing. I finally found a good Christian women’s shelter on Jackson Street (someone at Sal Val had that right) and took her there.
She told me on the way that she seriously backslid for quite a while but repented one day when she’d cried out to God, opened her Bible, and saw John 3:16:
It always comes back to the cross, doesn’t it?
I called her parents later that night (after pizza, at the dentist’s office) and her dad shared the heartbreaking story behind their daughter’s many bumps in the road. He and his wife are good people, praying for their child like all of us do. They were so relieved to hear from her and then to receive my phone call. I gave them the women’s shelter information, of course.
I was so honored to help a homeless woman Wednesday evening. I tend to feel stuck in my writing cave while everyone else is out there working with people. I haven’t gone to Sal Val—I don’t think I’ve been there this year. It’s always a quirky trip if we go and yet God had this thing planned out that a trucker dropped “Jackie” off near Sal Val and sent her inside. Just that morning I cried out to him to let me participate a little bit. I am graced to write and I love it but I get cabin (cave) fever sometimes. Haha. God is so GOOD!
Long story—hopefully it was engaging enough to keep you with me this far. Thanks so much for listening!