So when I do ask my children to sacrifice something on behalf of someone else and they act put out, I feel like I have no one to blame but myself. For them being spoiled. And then I really hate myself for it. Because it was never my intention and I don't know how to fix it.
After that happened, I was feeling really discouraged. So I prayed for inspiration and this is what we did:
Today we had planned to get our Christmas tree and go out to dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant, Itto's. But I was inspired with a different plan. During the day I bought sandwich meat & cheese (and pepperonis!) and lettuce. Bags of chips, string cheese, apples and cookies.
At 6:00 when Chris and Nick got home ready to go to dinner, Dan and I told them we'd changed the plan. Tonight we were going to make 10 sack lunches, drive around the city and look for people to give them to. And instead of going out to dinner, we'd make sack lunches for ourselves and use the money we saved to give to the people we met. Ten $10 bills -- One or two $10 to each person.
I had prayed really, really hard that this would go over well. Primarily for my children to have open, willing hearts. But also for me that we'd actually find people and this wouldn't end up being a dumb idea. Because usually that's what stops me from doing some things. Fear of failure. I don't want to not succeed. Especially taking the whole family along. But someone recently told me how you get over your fear of failure is simply jumping in and taking risks. Because it usually works out.
And I did have faith that if we were really sincere, Heavenly Father would lead us to people who would love a sandwich and through our love feel His love. At least I hoped we could be led. Before we started we said a family prayer letting God know our plan and asking him to guide us to those who needed food and needed to feel His love. And also asking that we would know where to go.
Making sandwiches all together and packing lunches was fun. It didn't take us too long and soon we headed out. We had some ideas of where people usually stand with signs near freeway exits and entrances. But it was cold and dark and they weren't there. We headed down to Walmart and then over to State Street. So far we didn't see anyone. Nick asked, "What if we don't find anyone?" Dan assured him we would. Chris asked "What if they used the money for drugs?" I assured him that if we were trying to find people Heavenly Father led us to, that we would give them the money and not worry about what they used it for.
Suddenly as we pulled up to a stoplight, Dan spotted a man standing on the corner with a sign. Chris jumped out of the car with a sack lunch, a water bottle and $10 and ran up to him. We saw them talk a minute and Chris gave him the food and money. Chris came running back to the car and said, "Give me another lunch, he has a baby with him." Dan and I could see the guy kneeling on the ground in front of the baby stroller pulling out a string cheese and the sandwich to start feeding the baby on the spot. The light turned green and as we drove past, we handed him another lunch through the window. His one-year-old was bundled up in the stroller in the freezing cold in the dark. The dad was so grateful. "Thank you so much -- you made my night. God Bless You." He said. My eyes filled with tears.
Next we drove past the Night School but didn't see anyone to give to. We passed Granite High and then over to Sugarhouse. As we drove into Sugarhouse, a woman in a wheelchair with several packages on her chair and blankets on her lap was zooming up the street. "I'll ask her," I said. Dan turned into a parking lot, but she had already zoomed by. We pulled out and passed her but I still wanted to ask, so we pulled into another parking lot. This time she was stopped near us. "Could you use a sandwich tonight?" I asked. She smiled big, "I would love one!" I gave her the lunch. Her name was Linda and she was very friendly and talkative. She had no teeth. "I'm stuck," she said. On the ground, a 1' x 3' patch of sidewalk was broken and rocky. "I'm afraid if I try to go over that, I'll tip, but if I go around into the street I might get hit."
"I have a lot of strong boys in the car, can they help?" I asked.
"Would you just walk with me into the street and help watch for cars?"
"Of course." So I walked with her a short ways and then back onto the sidewalk. She said her home wasn't too far from there. She was headed to Barnes and Noble to get warm before she finished "driving" home. She mentioned that one time she had a bag with a logo on it and she was mugged in Sugarhouse park. So she didn't want that to happen again. "You made my day," she said as I leaned down to give her a hug and say goodbye.
We drove past Fairmont park and then up through the shopping center where generally people hold signs at the exit. Sure enough, someone was there tonight. We pulled into the parking lot and Chris and Nick jumped out. They ran over with a lunch. "Do you want some food?" they asked.
"Heck yeah! This is so awesome -- you're the best." Soon Chris and Nick ran back to get another. "He has a wife sitting there too." They ran back and gave a lunch to her. "You're so kind," she said. "You're so sweet."
From there we headed downtown. We passed the library where I thought a lot of people were probably hanging out to stay warm. But we couldn't pass out lunches there. We passed an apartment and there was a guy on the corner and Chris said, "Him!" Dan had already driven past so he said he'd go around the corner. When we got back around, that guy was gone, but up ahead was a lady walking with a cane.
We pulled up near her and I got out of the car. "Would you like a sandwich, tonight?" She was bundled up and turned her black face to me with the biggest smile. "Oh, yes I would, honey! Thank you! You are doing the work of Jesus!" I gave her a sack lunch, a water bottle and $10. She was delighted. "I'm Linda," what's your name (yes, two Lindas!)?" I told her. Then she exclaimed as thrilled as could be, "I just moved into a home today!"
"Wonderful! I'm so happy for you!" I said, as we gave each other hugs. She clinged to me a moment and I think I clinged to her. "Are you headed there now?" I asked.
"No, honey. I'm walking to Big Lots to get some supplies."
I could see that holding a sack lunch and a water bottle in one hand and a cane in the other was a bit difficult for her. "Would you like a bag to help?"
"Oh yes, I would!" and we dumped out the waters from one bag and helped her put the things in it.
As we drove away she loudly exclaimed to the world, "God bless you! Thank you, Jesus!"
We turned the corner and there was someone with a cart of belongings. Dan jumped out with two bags. "Hello, I have a sandwich if you're interested." Immediately a man sat up. He was white and whiskery with a thin face and very friendly. His name was Gusto and he was originally from Illinois. "I'm the last one left of my family," he said. Not sadly. Just friendly. Dan asked him if he was warm enough. "Oh, yes! At the center they gave me blankets and another person came by and gave me hand warmers. I'm plenty warm."
We left and drove down another street nearby where we could see someone else with a pile of belongings in a park. Dan and Nick ran over with two more lunches. This man was quieter. He was originally from France but most recently from California. Dan offered him both lunches and he was happy to have them.
We talked about how we felt now that all the lunches were gone. Chris said, "At first I was happy to do it but wanted to hurry and finish so I could get back to my friends. But as soon as I saw that first guy on the corner with his baby, my whole perspective changed."
We still got our Christmas Tree on our way home. But all of our perspectives had changed. Maybe not permanently. We'll get selfish and spoiled again. Maybe even soon. But this experience allowed us the opportunity to actually give up something we wanted and to help someone else instead. To talk to someone directly and give a gift--not anonymously, but face-to-face. To have a glimpse into someone else's life and realize it doesn't take much to ease another's burden and show love.
"If ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."