Brenda and I met in the lounge of a transitional home for women where she and thirty other women were working to rebuild their shattered lives. Amidst mismatched sofas and coffee tables that had seen better days, I helped this sixty-two-year-old woman prepare for her GED exam.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I volunteered to tutor Brenda. Would we hit it off? Become friends? Or would the relationship remain that of tutor and student?
Truth be told, Brenda and I had very little in common. She is African-American. I am the palest of white you can imagine. She was raised in the South. I grew up in the tundra-country of Wisconsin. Brenda had many years of hard living on the streets. I live in relative comfort.
But none of that mattered when we got together.
For one thing, after a couple of sessions on those mismatched sofas, I realized I was probably learning more from Brenda than she was learning from me. Sure, I was helping her with exercises in reading comprehension and assignments on the U.S. constitution, but she taught me much more important lessons.
Brenda taught me about prayer. At the end of each tutoring session, we closed with prayer. Brenda’s passionate outpouring of gratitude made my safe little prayers pale in comparison. Her love for her Savior was evident in every word.
Brenda taught me about passion. Although she was older than me, Brenda still possessed the wonder and awe of a baby Christian. Her excitement for the God who had freed her from a forty-year drug addiction simply couldn’t be contained. Although our surroundings in the women’s shelter were not glittering and glitzy, Brenda’s face shone with the joy.
Brenda taught me about evangelism. As our relationship grew, Brenda and I occasionally went out to lunch or ran errands together. At the end of every encounter with a server or salesperson, she added, “Jesus bless you.” She definitely was not shy about sharing what Jesus had done for her. I was hoping some of her boldness would rub off on me.
Brenda taught by example and made me question my own life. Were my prayers a testimony of thanksgiving? Did my face, my life, show the joy of knowing Christ? Or had my faith grown complacent? Did I take the miracle of salvation for granted?
I got so much more than I expected when I said yes to tutoring Brenda. I received renewed appreciation for the Good News of Jesus that sets us all free. I got lessons in bold and passionate prayer. I received the gift of a new friend.
Brenda and I started out as tutor and tutee, but it wasn’t long before laughter and faith made us more than academic partners. We have become friends.