She's told me her story in bits and dribbles, always over the drone of nearby children, who bounce around the six-room house vying for the attention of the visitor. It's not a pleasant tale, peppered with the love and support of family.
At 15, something tragically unthinkable occurred. When she divulged details, I shivered, mentally wrapping a protective blanket over my 15-year-old, wishing I could have done the same for Jessica. It helps explain why Jessica seems less mature in some areas. In others, she is wise beyond her years. I believe she may have stopped growing emotionally after this incident. Merely an observation, not judgment or criticism.
Jessica is the first to point out her flaws. "I can't help my 6th grader with his math, it's so beyond me," she almost cried when we spoke before Christmas. "You know, I'm not good at that stuff."
It breaks my heart to see her so hard on herself, so I offered, in truth and love: "When my youngest had that math teacher two years ago, she said she was now teaching in 6th grade what high-school seniors used to learn." Her eyes grew wide and she responded: "Really, then maybe I'm not so lame."
She's not – at all. In fact, twice I have heard God speak directly through her to me. She wasn't even aware. The first time was several years ago when she lamented they had no computer and she knew her oldest would soon need one for school. She wasn't asking, hinting or implying that someone get one or even that I should. We'd just met, really.
But the message stayed with me for a few months. Until I blurted it out in Quaker worship because I had to get it off my chest. Though I wasn't even asking for money, one kind soul made a donation and they passed the collection plate, which my Meeting (church) doesn't ordinarily do. They, too, were moved by Jessica's story. Between my generous faith community and neighbors, we were able to purchase a desktop computer, printer, ink and year of Internet. Thanks to the local Obama headquarters, who donated leftover office supplies to Artsy Fartsy, the family also got a big box of paper.
I hadn't said a word about the computer until everything was organized and ready to go. Jessica latched on and hugged me repeatedly, saying I was her angel. "You really heard me." she said. "Not me, but that of God," I answered. We unknowingly made the delivery on her middle son's birthday, which stoked the celebration. God was certainly in charge
Jessica has also battled leukemia for 18 years and takes a number of medications, which have robbed her memory. She blames chemo for one son's struggles. In my Artsy Fartsy program, I have found him cooperative, creative and adorable. Being singled out and separated from siblings could have that affect.
Before Christmas, I had stopped by with a small gift just for Jessica. Often, she is overlooked as the children are more obvious recipients of help. You would have thought I had bought her a new house rather than scarf, bag and necklace, which, by the way, perfectly matched her outfit. She led me to her room and the sack of goodies she had just purchased from the Dollar Tree. "That's all I can do this year," she said as if merely thinking it out loud, not expecting any response or action.
One of my husband's generous siblings had asked my girls to select a charity and buy toys with his check. Well, as teens, they had procrastinated. Perhaps, though, this was Spirit's movement. We quickly texted to ask if their uncle would mind supporting an entire family instead. Without hesitation, he said yes! The girls went to work creating a list and plotting the next day's shopping expedition.
One of them and I decided to pay Jessica a visit to make sure this was okay and get some ideas. Just as we were walking out the back door, the front door-bell rang. One of her boys was bringing me a Christmas present. The mother with few resources had insisted on lavishing me with gifts. It's, probably, the most meaningful present I have ever received (okay, besides from my children). I quickly opened it, then we were on our way. I thanked her (a little too quickly, I now understand. I should have savored receiving and let her bask in the feeling of giving) and Jessica mentioned to be sure to notice the name of the fragrance. It was labeled "Token of love." I sprayed it on the other night, feeling very bathed in love and the light, springy scent.
There's more to tell ... in another post. I like ending on the idea of love and light, because that's what this friendship has brought me.
• When has an unexpected friendship brought deep resonance?
• Is my heart aimed at helping people locally or globally? (no wrong answers, here!)
• When have I heard God speak through another?
• How did I respond?
• If giving is easier than receiving for me, what might I be depriving another giver of in not receiving?
the first time I met her,
she hugged me
I think because
something I'm good at
and something rare for
the mother of five
when I have been able
to listen deeply enough,
I am honored to hear
God speak through her
a wounded, marginalized
woman who thinks she's
good at nothing
that's whom God chooses
Listen to this post: