showing love lisa leonard-01

Last week I saw a homeless woman with two kids standing on the corner with a sign asking for help.

The younger son had a blanket tied around his neck like a cape. As he jumped around, pretending to be a superhero, I thought back to the days when my own son, Matthias insisted on wearing a cape everywhere. The older daughter was drawing on a sketch pad. My kids do the same things. I wondered what it would be like to keep my boys occupied while standing on a street corner for hours. It seemed exhausting.

I kept driving because I’m busy and she’s probably not really homeless — she’s just trying to get a handout. At least those were my first thoughts. I just wanted it to go away.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about her. On Sunday, our pastor encouraged us to pay attention to that tug on our hearts and stop to listen to God’s prompting. Ugh! I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to pray. But I felt that tug on my heart, so I pulled over the car and sat for a moment.

I prayed that God would give me insight.

“God, how can I help her?” I pleaded.

I decided to run into the grocery store and grab a few snacks for them — granola bars, pretzels, and fruit. I hurried through the aisles picking up my own boys’ favorite snacks. At the last minute I picked up a gift card to McDonald’s at the checkout.

My heart was racing as I got in my car to drive back toward them. Why was I so nervous? I didn’t expect to feel that way. Then I realized — it’s risky.

It’s vulnerable to step out and show someone love.

What if she rejected me?
What if she didn’t want the groceries?

I didn’t have much to lose by trying, but it still felt scary. I pulled up along the curb, got out and handed her the groceries and gift card. I noticed my hands were shaking. A huge smile spread across her face, and I asked her if I could give her a hug. And we embraced on the sidewalk.

I don’t know her story, but I suspect it involves hurts and twists and turns, just like mine. Maybe she’s made some bad choices. I know I have, as well.

She matters. Her kids matter. As I drove away I prayed that each of them would feel seen and loved.

Isn’t that what each of us wants, what each of us needs?

Today I’m reminding myself to take time to see those in need — from a homeless woman to a Starbucks barista to a dear friend. I want to slow down and give a smile or a little love where I can. Will you join me?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.'” {Matthew 25:40}

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  • http://www.beckykeife.com/ Becky Keife

    Beautiful, Lisa. I’ve had the same heart-pounding, hand-shaking experience. Maybe God allows us to go through that type of discomfort as a physical reminder that sacrificial love and obedience are costly. But the outcome of saying Yes to where God asks us to go is always more blessed than if we had stayed comfortable and said no. Thanks for this vulnerable example of what it looks like to love others right where you are.

    • lisa leonard

      Such insightful words, Becky. I agree, it is costly. But so important. And God gets the glory. xx

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Lisa,
    I have befriended a homeless woman, Toni, who regularly stands at an intersection at a nearby shopping center. Yes, it was risky reaching out, especially when our world screams, “Beware” when it comes to the homeless begging. What I found is that she is a real person, whom God genuinely loves, who has lived (and is still living) a hard life. Actually we had several things in common – a love of our dogs and struggles with mental illness. I think often we are afraid to find out that we have more in common with the homeless than what we might think or imagine. God has poured out His blessings on me and He nudged and urged me to pour out His blessings on Toni. So glad I let God tug on my heartstrings…thanks for such an encouraging post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • lisa leonard

      Bev that is so cool! I love your outgoing encouraging heart!! xo

  • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

    I often have that same quandry — does s/he really need help? But I have an 8-year-old with a child’s heart and eyes who sees only the NEED . . . and makes me stop! I suppose if we’re going to err, we should err on the side of giving help. Good words this morning.

    • lisa leonard

      Yes! Love this. So true. xx

  • Penny

    That was so sweet of you Lisa, I’m sure that your actions must of deeply touched this lady and her children.

    If we all chose to ignore those less fortunate, would we not be taking away a glimmer of hope they might of had…

    My son spoke of this last night, how he planned to help the homeless or the displaced. He’s 8 so he will need some extra hands for sure….

    • lisa leonard

      That is amazing that he has such a tender heart. Beautiful. xx

  • http://www.hollyjanecreative.blogspot.com/ Holly

    Thank you for sharing this… It gives courage to those of us who might otherwise listen to the voice that says “keep walking, keep moving, don’t think about it…” when we really need to be listening to God’s voice saying, “Stop, Listen, Act…”

    • lisa leonard

      Thank you Holly. xo

  • Veronica

    Hi Lisa, I love your honesty about God nudging you to help, and you not being sure whether you should. Then you prayed about it and showed her Christ’s love by your actions. I bet that hug meant even more to her than the care package you lovingly assembled for her. Thanks for sharing how loving others changes us.

    • lisa leonard

      The hug felt vulnerable. And I didn’t know I was going to do it until that moment. It was such a connection though. God was at work, even in my brokenness. xx

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy Robinson

    May we all take the time to be the hands and feet of Christ in this way. Thank you for the encouragement to reach out!

    • lisa leonard

      Thank you Missy! xo

  • Joanne Peterson

    Lisa,

    I’ve struggled with giving because I have known a man who attended the same church as we did who put on a body brace when he wasn’t in need. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christ said to give to those in need, and He knows their situation and just like you tell you when to give. Children are especially vulnerable.
    My daughter also has been homeless through very poor choices. She isn’t now, but it was so very hard to listen and read her e-mails when we knew she could make a different choice and be in a better position. We would have helped her in a heartbeat if Jesus would have given us the green light to help. That was one of the hardest things we have had to do, say no we couldn’t help.

    God does still say to love the least of these and we can help in different ways and He leads. You let this woman and her children know they are visible and acknowledged as a valuable person, made in the image and likeness of Jesus.
    Blessings,
    Joanne

    • lisa leonard

      It such a complicated issue, I agree. I appreciate your insights! xo

    • Sandy

      It is so hard when it’s our own kids. I had to order my son out of my house when he was 18. He was choosing wrong friends, wrong behaviors, stealing from me. It was the hardest thing I ever did but I knew it was the right thing at the time. God had told me when he was a toddler that he’d be a minister some day. Well, during the time he was out of my home I prayed harder than ever for him. God was working on him. He told me the story of God speaking to him through a bumper sticker that said “No God, No Peace! Know God, Know Peace!” He was riding with someone and they approached a light that usually turned red quickly. He prayed if God is real, let the light stay green until they got through. It did. He called me and asked if he could come home and he’d behave. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he would tell me he’d been called into the ministry and I was right. Praise the Lord!

      • Joanne Peterson

        Thank you for your very kind and sweet reply Sandy.

        Our situation is such that the Lord let me know it will be many years before she comes to Him, and we have to trust the Lord no matter what we see going on,( and we’ve seen an awful lot), and know He is working behind the scenes, fighting for my daughter and for us. It’s rather complicated.

        What I come away with from your sweet reply is God uses everything to reach our kids, and He does see what’s going on and acts on our behalf. God has promised us about seven years ago, she will have a powerful testimony when she comes to Him and we will have a testimony of His faithfulness. Seeing your situation of the Lord intervening is sweet.

        Blessings,

        Joanne

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I, too, have been torn between helping and holding back (so as not to enable irresponsibility). That nudge from the Holy Spirit is exactly what we must seek, to wisely respond on an individual basis to each need. Thank you for sharing this perfect example, Lisa.

    • lisa leonard

      Thank you Nancy! xo

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    This was an amazing read, as well as the comments from others. I have been in this situation myself, and it is a good reminder to keep alert, as well as that I am not alone when it comes to battling the “beware” feelings versus the nudge of the Holy Spirit. I think that is why it is so important to pray without ceasing; being in close relationship with the Father will truly lead us the right way. Thank you for sharing!

    • Debra Zantman

      Thank You for sharing. This was a beautiful post and touched my heart. I am new to Incourage.
      It’s vulnerable to step out and show someone love. Love this and so true. Thank you.

      • lisa leonard

        I was surprised how vulnerable I felt. It’s good to be stretched, right? xo

    • lisa leonard

      Thanks Meghan! xx

  • Ann Ellison

    I am learning to listen to that still small voice too. A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at Walgreens before church to pick up a couple of things. Earlier that morning I had found a Visa gift card in my wallet and wasn’t sure if I had used it or not. When I checked out my charges totaled $19.99. I had the clerk check the card and it had $20 left on it. I had a $20 bill in my wallet I had planned on using. When I excited the store a woman approached me and asked me if I would buy her and companion something to eat. She was not asking for money. I reached in my wallet and gave her the $20. She immediately collapsed to sit on the curb crying and just kept saying over and over “Thank you Jesus.” Needless to say I went to church shedding a few tears of my own.

    • lisa leonard

      Whoa. That is so powerful!! xx

  • Mary Morrison

    I filled small baggies with beef jerky, breakfast bars, and a packet of mixed nuts. I keep the baggies and bottled water in my van to hand out to persons requesting help. It feels good to provide for others, even when it is a small gesture.

  • Claudine Phillips

    Lisa. My eyes are full of sweet tears and heart overflowing with joy. I, too, get nervous when God tugs on my heart to love the unexpected. I could see the whole thing play out as you shared your words. Sweet words for us to hear. Love one another. You have inspried me to write out similar experiences as well as to not ignore God’s prompting. XOXO

  • Nora Grahe

    That is so special. God bless you! Not all homeless are looking for anything but someone to help, care or just maybe get a meal, truly… I know!

  • Sandy

    I heard many over the years say not to give to the homeless are you’d be helping them in their bad choices. However, I’ve been essentially homeless a time or two and nearly so on several occasions. It can happen to anyone. I heard about a women who made up “homeless bags” with essentials for a few days like bottled water, canned foods with pop open tops or dried foods, lotion, toothbrush, and such. So, I think of what I might need for a day or two and try to include them in the bag along with an inexpensive throw. I put the info for a local Christian homeless shelter and include a Bible. I put a little money in the Bible where John 3:16 is. If they open to find the real treasure, they will find the earthly treasure, too. The rest of whatever happens is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. I pray for them to find Jesus through the gift. I’ve had a number of positive responses from people who received one of these bags.

    • Beth Williams

      Sandy,
      That is such a great idea! Giving people what they need to survive and telling them of the Eternal Salvation through Christ! Thank you for giving of yourself!

      Blessings :)

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/ Marty

    When my son was in high school, he headed out to meet a friend for dinner. I asked if he had any money, and he said, “I don’t have any cash, but I can use my debit card.” I reached in my wallet and pulled out a $20. He said, “thank you, Mom. I gave my last few dollars to a man in the McDonald’s parking lot last night…he just needed a few dollars for gas to get home.” My husband’s head whipped around so fast and he started asking him a million questions…and cautioning him about safety issues and scams and how the man may have wanted money for drugs or cigarettes or alcohol. My son said, “in the Bible, we are commanded to love people and help them…it doesn’t say to find out their intent first. We just have to trust that God will deal with them if they have bad motives.” And that’s how we felt really, really small. I want my children to be safe and make wise decisions in these types of situations, but I really love my tender-hearted boy. :)

  • Beth Williams

    Lisa,
    It can be hard to know if they need, truly want help or just money for their addictions. I would err on the side of giving a little to help out. In the past I have “adopted” elderly less fortunate people for Christmas, given money for gas, etc. I want to be found faithful and trusting by God!
    I find it amazing though that young children have a heart of gold. Maybe they haven’t been jaded by life yet. A lot of them seem to want to help immediately and fix things. They want a Pollyanna kind of life where no one is hurt, homeless or hungry!
    Blessings :)