Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Ring

She stepped into the dark of an early winter evening, bone-weary despite an hour sitting with her meal and homework. If she hurried, she’d make it to class in time.

“Please, ma’am!” A woman stepped from the shadows, white ice skates hanging from her hand by the laces.

She was no stranger to needy ones on the street, but wasn’t often in this neighbourhood. She looked up and waited.

“Someone broke into my apartment this morning and took everything.” The woman held up the skates. “I’m trying to sell these because I need the money.” Opening her other hand to reveal an ipod and ring, she said how much she bought them for, adding, “I only want $40 for the three. It’s a really good deal.”

Yes, it was certainly a bargain, though chances were that the woman was pawning stolen goods. She shook her head to decline the offer.

“My father was diagnosed with cancer yesterday. He’s in the hospital and I want to get to him before he dies. I haven’t eaten today. Could you please help me?”

Wary of a scam, she noticed a half-dried tear on the woman’s cheek. Weighing her choices, she heard the One say, “This one needs you.”

With a slight nod, she reached into her bag and pulled out five dollars. “I don’t want to buy anything, but I’ll give you this. Can I pray for you?”

The woman nodded.

Putting her hand on the woman’s shoulder, she began to entreat the One for help—about the woman’s stolen possessions, her need for food and money, for her father’s health. When she asked the One for joy in her life, the woman burst into tears. The emotion was real. “Would you like a hug?”

The woman nodded. “I gave my life to Jesus. I’ve been clean from drugs for more than a year.”

“Wow! Congratulations! Good for you!” She thought of the woman’s need and her very sick father in the hospital. “How much is the bus fare?” City Transit would not make change, but she knew she had enough coins she could give the woman.

“I need another six dollars.”

“What hospital is your father in?” Clearly it wasn’t in the city.

The woman named a town several hours away. “The bus comes in half an hour. Could you give me the six dollars I need?”

She shook her head. Five dollars was far more than she would normally give a stranger on the street. Someone else would have to provide the rest. The One gave her a nudge. “I could give you a ride to the bus station.”

“I can walk. It’s not that far away.”

“True, but I’m going that way and you don’t want to miss your bus.”

They walked to the car and continued to talk as she drove. The woman again asked for six dollars, counting out what she had. “I could pay you back if you gave me your address. I would send it to you tomorrow. My parents have the money.”

The One spoke to her again, but she kept silent.

“I’m going to have to get another Bible. Those who broke in destroyed mine.”

“I have a Bible I can give you. If you let me know when you are back in the city, I could give it to you then.”

The woman brightened. “Maybe we could go to a Bible study together?”

“Perhaps. My church has many street people.”

They pulled into the bus station and she spoke out what the One had whispered earlier. “I have an idea. Why don’t you give me back the five dollars I gave you, and I’ll give you twenty dollars.” Her hand was already in her bag, searching. “This will cover the rest of your ticket and give you a bit to buy a meal. I will give you my address, but I don’t want you to pay me back. Let me know when you are back in the city and I’ll give you a Bible.”

The woman’s eyes pooled with tears. “Would you pick me up and take me to church?”

“Of course! Just let me know when you’re back in town.”

The woman reached over to hug her and then pulled something from her pocket. “Here! I want you to have this.” The woman held out the ring.

She paused with indecision. Respect must always be given, but was it right to take the gift? What if it was stolen goods? The One whispered again and she replied, “Okay. If it fits, I will keep it.”

The fit was perfect and she gave her thanks. The woman once again hugged her, opened the door and got out.

“God be with you,” she said.

“Thank you,” the woman replied, then closed the door and walked into the building.

She drove away, jockeying with two taxis for the exit. She was late for her class but she didn’t care. She heard the One again, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these, you do for me.” It was enough.

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