A Heart of Stone

I saw something disturbing today.  I took my youngest son to the grocery store with me and when we parked in the parking lot there was a vehicle next to ours that had words written on the hood. I couldn’t read the words clearly but as I got out of my van I saw small hangers with children’s clothing inside the window. There was at least one small child in the back seat. As we walked away from the van my son turned to look at more words written on the rear of the vehicle. He turned to me and said, “Mom, did you see that? That says ‘homeless family. hungry, can you help us'”

My first thought was one of compassion. But I must confess, the next thought was to wonder if it was for real or some kind of an angle.  I am a victim of the culture I live in and I have become suspicious of people who would take advantage of those who are too trusting or gullible.  Obviously the adult who was driving was inside the store. As we entered the store I walked around getting our groceries and wondering which person was the one.

By the time we got back out to our van the vehicle was gone.

All day long I’ve thought about that family. What if they really are homeless? What if I could have helped? Did God want me to help? I didn’t even ask Him. I just went about my own business. I have thanked God several times today for all the ways He provides for us. I’ve thanked Him for giving us a home and food to eat. But it all seems shallow some how. Do I just say “Thank You Lord” while people around me are hungry and have no place to sleep?

How will I ever learn to pay attention to what’s going on around me? How will I know when God wants me to act if I don’t ask?

My prayer is that God would do what he told Ezekiel. That He would take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. One that would feel  greater compassion for those in need. And that I would see God’s children through His eyes and not my own.

  • Steve North

    I love this, Sheryl! you raise a great point. congratulations on wrestling with something so near to God’s heart. To me that ought to be something we wrestle with, anyway.

    No matter where of how we might give or serve, it is inevitable that we will encounter what I call “the takers.” I doubt this needs explanation, so I won’t. The question is not whether we will encounter them. The question is how we will respond.

    The worst thing the takers can take is not stuff. If we’re not careful, they take our heart. When that happens to any of us, the goal becomes avoiding being taken advantage of, which becomes an excuse for funding reasons to say “no,” rather than “yes,” and God’s mandate to care for the poor takes a back seat to our urgency to protect self.

    I decided a long time ago that I would rather be taken advantage of now and then and keep a soft heart and attentive ear, than to develop a hard heart and all that that carries with it. That doesn’t mean that I’m not discerning with people. It just means I have a chance to genuinely hear God unhindered by a cynical heart. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

    Thanks for posting, my friend. Keep up the good wrestling!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Steve. I know this issue is close to your heart. I love being able to keep up with what you are doing in Toledo. You are an inspiration to many, me included.

  • Diane Miller Vann

    I too wonder what to do when I see the “Will work for food” sign, or something similar. I wrestle with helping out of my meager means or are they ripping me off? Mostly, I just look the other way. That always brings the thought, “What would Jesus do?” Sometimes I do give some money and think, “it’s between them and God now!” As long as I gave in good faith, it’s up to them to face God. I worry about having my heart hardened by the world.

  • cindy

    I had gone into the grocery store on July 1 which was on a Monday. It was busier than a Saturday! I then realized it was the first of the month when the food stamps come out to be used. I felt very strange paying for my groceries when the others were using their food stamp card to pay for theirs. I thanked God I could pay for mine and prayed for the others in the store.