Not too long ago, I was heading to work on one of those cozy, rainy stay-at-home kinds of days and I drizzled by a young, thin girl standing at a bus stop with a stroller. Her hand was blocking the droplets from her hair and a thin blanket was covering the child in the stroller. I did a double take up and down the street to see if the bus was on its way when something (read: Someone) inside my gut told me to give her my jacket.
A year earlier, I threw an old, green Army jacket in my trunk. It was my dad’s jacket and one of the few things that I had of his. He wore it when he lived out on the streets and I was never all that attached to it because it reminded me of his years engulfed in the drugs, alcohol and hopelessness that made him homeless.
I had high hopes for that green jacket.
I kept it in my trunk because I was sure I would find just the right homeless man to give it to. I would often drive to where stragglers straggled to see if there was some poor soul shivering on a bench or under a bridge who I could give the jacket to, share my dad’s story, a sandwich and maybe some hope too.
But, that day I felt compelled to give it to some random girl waiting for a bus.
So, I made a U-turn towards the girl in the rain and parked my car next to a shady trailer, grabbed the green jacket from my trunk and jogged over to her. Out of breath, I called her ‘Ma’am’ and with words stuck in my throat, I held out the crumpled jacket and blurted out that I wanted her to have it so she could keep dry in the rain.
I wanted to say something profound. I wanted to tell her how much Jesus loved her and I wanted to invite her over for dinner and maybe even for Christmas. But instead, I fumbled out something about God loving her and that I hoped she had a good day. She stared at me confused then shrugged and mumbled a strained, ‘thanks.’
I jogged back to my car with a head rush and lumpy throat.
It was exciting to do something nice for a stranger, but I wondered why she hadn’t seemed more grateful for my grand gesture. After all, I made a U-turn and everything. I replayed the scenario in my head and in MY version, the girl’s bottom lip quivered and eyes watered as she scooped the jacket up like a life vest and said something about how I saved her from drowning and that she was going to immediately change her baby’s name to mine.
The more I thought (read: obsessed) about the jacket, the more I wondered how many times I withheld a gift, a word of encouragement, a helping hand or a lending ear because I was so focused on seeking out the people that I deemed ‘needy’ instead of observing the common need. We’re all needy. We all go through times when we feel alone, broken, helpless or, worse yet, hopeless.
I was reminded of this truth: When the acts of kindness are no longer attached to our self worth or ambition, it makes it much easier to give them away freely.
What about you? Have you ever had a green jacket experience?