Lessons learned…

Donna opened the grey minivan and out tumbled stuff and kids. Her teenaged daughter jumped on to the sidewalk clutching a brown grocery bag in her arms.

I wiped away tears as she said, I heard you guys needed something. As we walked through the house she apologized, and said it wasn’t much. I brought what I had, she said. As they shoved stuff back into the van and drove away, we stood looking at the bag on the counter.

It had been months since my husband had been able to work. We were not even thirty and had a houseful of babies. Our third was still crawling and the oldest was not yet five. Our lives had been turned upside down by an injury that led to months of anxiety, few answers, and little hope. Keith couldn’t hold a fork, the baby, or a job and we were trying desperately to keep it all together. That afternoon, our final appeal to the workman’s compensation board had been denied. We were devastated and broke. We barely had enough gas to get home. When friends called, expecting to hear a story of relief, we whispered our devastation.

On the quiet drive home, a cavernous need enveloped us. We were numb. We were both shocked that relief had not come in the final hour. Our friends had prayed, we had trusted, and faith had come up short. We expected God to show up in the courtroom, instead He showed up in the minivan. We opened those bags to find just enough.

Half a gallon of milk, because they had one and shared it.
Half a loaf of bread, because they had one and shared it.
Half a jar of peanut butter, because they had one and shared it.

They opened up their cupboards and their hearts and simply shared what they had. We both stood speechless in the face of such love and generosity. Tears rolled down our cheeks as we accepted this gift. We stood humbled by His provision and His great love, and we received it as from His hand. We gave thanks.

It has been over twenty years since that difficult day, but the lessons of it still resonate in my life. Keith’s health was restored, our lives moved forward. He went back to work, the kids grew up, but the lessons we learned through that time have had sticking power. That bag of groceries was not the first, nor was it the last through that difficult season, but it was the one that broke our hearts open to receive. In that bag we learned that true generosity comes simply from sharing what we have.

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