i just came home from youth.
so i bought some snacks for hall and some marshmallows for games with the kids for the easter service. i walk towards the bike racks. out of the corner of my eye i spot a woman on an intercept course… and she is holding the dreaded keychains for sale. inevitably, me and my premeditated response of polite refusal continue on the collision course with destiny.
so the lady asks me to buy a keychain. its 10 dollars. 10 dollars for a keychain?
she says she’s an ex-convict, i say i went for yellow ribbon project before. a lame attempt to evade the loss of my 10 dollars. she says she’s supporting her daughter and is divorced.
at this point i begin to ask myself about the value of the 10 dollars in my wallet. what is money? before this i happily spent 17 dollars on snacks for myself, and 6 dollars more on marshmallows for the kids in church. i am fine with spending the 6 dollars on marshmallows i am not going to eat because i’m buying it for church stuff.
10 dollars is money that she could use more than me.
i rationalize being willing to part with 6 dollars because its for church stuff, and i’m not willing to part with 10 dollars? but this 10 dollars that i give her for the keychain, i realize, is for God. its not for church stuff… too often we are in love with the things we do for God rather than God himself. so i give her my 10 dollars and ask her to pick a keychain for me.
10 dollars for a keychain? that’s ridiculous, my singaporean money-sensitive side says. u mad bro? that’s the general response. who does this kind of things?
the lady says God bless you, i say thanks. then she says, don’t commit a crime, because once you do, ‘your future is gone’. i say to myself, you don’t say. ever cynical and safely ensconced in my elitist attitude, my body language says shut up and let me go home. but this lady pretends not to see this, she tells me to look at her, and not follow her example. she says at 15, she took drugs, ran away from home, started smoking and taking more drugs, got pregnant at 25, jail, divorce, raise a single child. she says don’t do this. and she says it with genuine sincerity: she says that this is the advice that she gives to the ‘youngsters’ these days.
she says i hope you go home and study, study means career, means you have a future. she says i want this for my daughter, i work for it now. young people must study, must put in effort, don’t waste your youth, because once its gone ts gone, you can’t get it back. she says how old are you? 22 this year, uni year one. oh good, good, you must study hard!
she tells me to listen to my betters and my elders because they have seen what life throws at you. indeed man.
so she says bye, God bless you. i say God bless you too, happy easter, seeya. she says oh are you a christian? easter is tomorrow, haha. yes i am, i just came from church. oh? church on saturday? yeah, i serve in youth.
she says that is good, and that i must encourage the youth, model the way, set a good example, give them love. she says a parent’s love is the most important thing, and sometimes kids don’t get that. she tells me repeatedly to be a good example, and to love people. her passion to share her life’s lesson shines in her eyes and by now i am listening actively.
this is stuff i know. i probably know it enough to give a lecture on it. living life 101? sure. i graduated from the school of excellence and how to live your life according to the never ending pursuit of excellence.
but this unnamed lady is talking about the real deal right here. she’s a narrative, a story, if you will. take it from the lit student – you can give a story to everything. but this is the story of the unsung heroine, she who quietly makes a difference. God used her, broken as she was, and used her to build others up because she had gone through the tough times herself. she reminds me of what our eyes should be fixed upon. the Bible says we don’t achieve our salvation through deeds, but through faith. yet faith means that because of our faith, we will work for the glory of God. faith, not deeds, is our focus, as is God, not simply glory.
as i cycled home and started composing this entry in my head i considered the fact that giving this 10 dollars was pretty darn incredible. in past years i don’t do things like that. i run from people who clearly intend to cross my path. but then i considered the fact that this lady has experienced God in her life and now she is turning her life around – you know, the ideal ex-convict narrative. then i realized that God is at work in my life too – how and why else would i have given up my 10 dollars?
today my 10 dollars didn’t become another meal, another icecream. today 10 dollars taught me the meaning of love.