I was in a hurry to get home.
I’d just gotten my hair cut and picked up a few groceries.
It had been a rough week. My best friend Wanda’s mother had died. That same day, we’d learned that while Wanda and I had been in California the week before at her mother’s bedside, Wanda had been dropped from her critically-needed health insurance. My ninety-three year-old father had been hospitalized with a stroke. And my daughter had given birth in a C-section marked by traumatic complications. Baby Josiah had been born early and tiny, but not without drama.
So I had reasons to rush home and attend to a list of priorities. I was exhausted beyond words as I slowed to stop at a traffic light.
A thin young man in jeans and a faded tee shirt sat on a backpack at the curb beyond the entrance to a local superstore. He held a cardboard sign angled at oncoming traffic. I couldn’t read the words.
I needed to go home and check on Jess, make calls for Wanda, hear my father’s voice. I needed a nap, for heaven’s sake.
But there he sat, head down, silently calling me.
The light turned green, and I circled through the gas station behind him so I could pull beside him on the exit drive from the store and read the sign.
“Hungry. Need food. Grateful for anything.”
Grateful–the word pulled me back into traffic, then into the parking lot of the gas station.
I turned off the car and headed into the convenience store and filled my arms with bread, peanut butter, fruit, a few sandwiches, and two bottles of water. The man at the cash register questioned me. I bought gas there often.
“No gas today?”
“No. Just a few groceries for the guy on the corner.” I pointed up the knoll to the busy corner.
“I didn’t even know he was there.”
“Yeah. He’s there,” I said as I took my bag. “Looks like he could use a little extra help today.”
“That’s pretty kind of you.”
“Not really. Not if you’ve ever loved someone who hasn’t had enough to eat or a place to live. You’re just grateful if you ever find them again. And if you don’t, you hope someone is feeding them for you.”
I called out to the young man as I climbed the grassy hill behind him. He walked over to me quickly and took the bag. His name was Jackson. He was headed to San Diego. He’d hitchhiked to Michigan from California and learned that Michigan winters can be hard. He was heading back. He told me the route he’d planned, and he let me pray for him.
Later, as I drove away, I regretted that I’d forgotten to ask if I could call his mother or a loved one for him. If there was someone who needed to know he was safe. I promise I’ll ask next time, Jackson.
Dear Jackson’s Mom,
I met your son yesterday. He had kind eyes. He was gentle and polite to me–you would be proud. He’s headed back to California to be with people he knows. I pray they are good people who are kind to him. I’m a mom who knows what it’s like not to know where her son is. Today, know that your son has food. That a mother cared for him and gave him food and is praying for him. I’ve been praying for Jackson every day since I met him.
God is taking care of your son in ways you can’t see. Don’t give up.
A Grateful Mom