Tag Archives: service

Mr. Dinty Moore…

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The only reason we were in the grocery store on a Friday evening at four o’clock is because I signed up to bring a meal to a family in our church that had a new baby. I am not normally on the meals ministry because these days I can’t seem to make a meal larger than the appetites of the growing humans I’m responsible for.

Tonight was case in point because my tasty plans had fallen apart to the degree that two frozen lasagnas were cooking in my oven and I was at the grocery store on a Friday evening to buy bread and a ready salad.

By Friday evening my kids are tired after a week of school. Also, it is May, so my kids are also tired from a year of school. The little guy is potty training and missed his nap today and I am dragging them all through food-option-nirvana on empty bellies.

My daughter refuses to walk and is sitting in the cart pulling it around by reaching to whatever half-permanent object is closest. Every time I turn around the cart is five feet away. My little one is standing in the cart and eating grapes off the produce shelf. My seven-year-old has his nose buried in a book and is basically stopping wherever is most inconvenient for everyone else.

(“Put down your book!”)

As we make it to the checkout, things are devolving fast. The toddler has figured out how to lift the bottom of the cart and slide to the floor, which he is doing. My almost-six-year-old daughter is trying to read the US Weekly (“I want to read a magazine!”) which I am trying to distract her from.

(“Read this food magazine.”
“It’s boring!”)

I have fifteen items in a fifteen item express lane and three of my items are a twin loaf of bread, a bunch of bananas, and a bag of grapes. I am pushing it across the board.

The guy behind me strolls up, middle aged, glasses, with ten, I swear, microwavable ready-packs of Dinty Moore beef stew and about seven pounds of zucchini. I don’t know what the heck he’s got going on tonight but this bachelor sure as hell doesn’t have time for the circus I got going on right here.

My eldest has stopped reading his book long enough to make his sister dissolve into a puddle of indignant victimhood on the floor.

(“Just, stand over there and read your book!”)

My baby is back in the cart via “the new route” and is shaking the coin machine at the checkout.

At this point a fellow mother from school comes in (you know who you are). She’s alone, has her cart, takes one look at me, and laughs. That was the picture I was painting at that moment.

So, the middle-aged Chinese lady, that is my sympathetic cashier (“You very busy.”), scans my beer.

“You get some beer, I need to see ID.”

I, getting out my driver’s license and trying to placate Mr. Dinty Moore who is strangely unresponsive as my daughter wails at his feet, crack a joke, “And I earned every ounce.”

And this is why you should never EVER card a mother of three children. Because, people, my driver’s license had expired… on my birthday… in January.

(My eldest was loudly fascinated, “Mom, your ID expired?! What does that mean? It’s expired?! Can I see? So, you can’t get your beer?”
“Go read your book.”)

The Chinese lady grimaced as she slowly removed my beer from the belt. She regretted checking my ID now, thought it was going to be a great treat for everyone, and as much as it hurt me I could tell it stung her a little, too.

I don’t mind admitting that it’s a defeated Barbara who wrangled three kids into the car, without beer, and now thinking about DMV visits. (Argh!)

These days the toddler takes a while to get into his seat. He likes to play this really funny game where he jumps into the front seat right when I open the back door and jump back into the back seat when I open the front door. So, as badly as I wanted to be gone and home it took us several minutes before I could sit back in my seat.

Then, there was a knock on my window.

Who is it, but Mr. Dinty Moore himself and— he’s holding my beer.

“You bought me my beer!” I yell at the window. I rolled down the window.

I swear he said nothing, just smiled, handed me the beer, and walked away.

(“He bought your beer?! That guy bought your beer? Why did he do that?! You couldn’t buy beer because your ID had expired, right?”)

Well played Mr. Dinty Moore. May your meaty morsels be flavorful and your zucchini bread be moist. By blessing a mother with beer you have blessed us all.

Jonah Moment…

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I nearly tripped over a homeless man today on my way to the bust stop from work. He was tucked up on one elbow, reading a book, and precariously wedged into the very small space available between sidewalk and parking garage exit. As I stepped broad to miss him our eyes met and he scowled at me. In my imbalance I had fumbled the unspoken cultural politeness of ignoring him in his living space.

I checked in with God if he had a message for this man who flipped his page angrily at me in rebuttal. I mentally sorted through the contents of my bag, if there was food or anything for him. There was half a chocolate bar, but that was for me for later, my chocolate bar. God knew his name, hadn’t forgotten him, blah blah blah. But I didn’t stop. I didn’t speak. I didn’t go back. And who would blame me, I thought. No one would blame me.

For one, it’s after work and I’m on my way to catch a bus. But two, I’m a woman and, you know, I don’t want to be unsafe, as if God has called me to safety. And three, well, I have plans for that chocolate bar.

I read the gospels over Lent which particular activity always leads to an uncomfortable stirring sensation within my too-viscous soul. And something that jumped out at me, tweaked my nostrils, and slapped me upside the head in a very three-stooges fashion was how frequently it talks about Jesus healing in response to being moved.

It’s so comfortable for me to think of Jesus as already knowing everything, no surprises, “I’m gonna heal a lame man today and I’m gonna do it like this”. It’s decidedly uncomfortable to wonder if he didn’t. Maybe he went out to preach and just happened to come across these holy prompts in their broken physical forms and healed them urged solely by a movement in his heart. How undefinable and unpredictable! No one would have blamed him if he had kept walking, would they have? No one would have blamed him. And it wasn’t like he avoided it, he went to the cities, he walked along the ways where the broken people waited, and he listened for them.

I have had Jesus in my heart for a very long time. I am becoming more like Jesus every day. I have covered the very longest of distances to get to the point where my compassion can move me to think a silent prayer on the bus.

And as I traveled home on the one-bus waiting for the massive breakdown in which I would have to yell over the screaming, “It’s me! I ignored God’s message! Kick me off the bus and save yourselves!” and return to the angry reading man and give him half of a chocolate bar, I thought, thank goodness Jesus is Jesus and not Barbara. Thank goodness Jesus is moved to do more than pray. Thank goodness he is moved to touch us, heal us, and weep with us.

This is my God. He works in me every day so that, hopefully, in another thirty years I can give away my chocolate bar.

Ruby Bridges Part 2…

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It wasn’t a long Wikipedia entry, but it was full. It lined up the people like a list of characters from the flyleaf of a play.

The six-year-old named Ruby, one of four who passed the test to go to a white school.

The mother who wanted a better education for her daughter and for African-American children everywhere.

The father who was hesitant and, later, became convinced.

The teachers who refused to teach while a black child was enrolled.

The parents who pulled their children out the moment Ruby walked in.

The one teacher who taught Ruby in an empty classroom for a year.

The US Marshalls who walked her to school every day of that year.

The woman who threatened to poison Ruby.

The woman who nailed a black baby doll in a coffin and scared little Ruby more than anything else they screamed and threw at her.

The first little white girl who broke the boycott and became Ruby’s classmate.

That first little white girl’s parents.

The market that wouldn’t let Ruby’s family shop there any more.

The employer that fired Ruby’s father.

The neighbors who watched over Ruby’s house and babysat when needed.

The neighbors who offered Ruby’s father a job.

Every good and noble shade of humanity woven together in contrast with the darkest.

And it reminds me that the Samaritan never set out to be immortalized forever in his own parable. Nor did the priest and Levite set out to play villain. They were just on their way, about their business when the opportunity came upon them.

This is very freeing to me. Not that I’m free from seeking out those in need, but free to help those as I walk, where I walk.  I may not be able to choose great brave deeds, but I can choose to act bravely in the deeds before me.

Babysitting, employing, teaching, heroes are made out of such ordinary stuff.