Yesterday was a warm and lovely Sunday afternoon. Larry had gone out to play ultimate with the brothers, while CC and I napped happily at home. After CC woke up, I packed him in the stroller, and armed with my crocheting, latest book, and a picnic blanket, I decided to take him out to the field so that he could watch his daddy playing with the boys.
As I walked past the meeting hall next door to our apartment building, I spied a young woman sitting on the steps to the side entrance. She asked me if I had any water, to which I responded no, and then she asked me if I had any money, to which I also responded no. (I actually did have money on me, but I was assuming she was asking if I had any money to give her). It’s a pretty common occurrence here in Berkeley to encounter people asking for money, and I usually walk past them with a muttered, “Sorry, not today.” I assumed she was just another panhandler – one of many in this city.
Before I could leave, she proceeded to pull some money out of her pocket and asked if I could go buy her some water. I didn’t expect that request and didn’t know quite how to respond. The closest store was a few blocks away and the last thing I wanted to do was to go out of my way to buy her some water. I had many bottles of water at home, but I didn’t want to turn around and go back. I muttered an apology and lamely offered her some diluted juice from CC’s sippy cup. “Nevermind,” she said, “I’ll just ask someone else.”
I walked away, crossed the street, and walked toward campus. Immediately the passage in Matthew 25:42-45 came to me:
For I was hungry and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty and you did not give Me a drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer, saying, Lord, when have we seen You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, neither have you done it to Me.
I walked down the block reasoning to myself – just because those verses came to me doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the Lord’s speaking, right? When I got to the next intersection, I stopped, because I couldn’t decide whether to keep walking or to turn around. Finally, something within me said, “If it is the Lord’s speaking, you need to obey it.” I heaved a sigh, turned the stroller around and walked back toward home.
The young woman was still there, this time with her head down on her hands. I told her I would get her some water and asked if she would still be there. She nodded without really looking up. So I went back to my building, took the elevator up and grabbed two bottles of water. As I took the elevator back down, I fished a cliff bar out of the diaper bag, preparing to offer that to her too in case she was hungry.
It took me less than 5 minutes to do all this, but by the time I got back to the meeting hall, the woman was gone and the steps were empty. I looked across the street, down the street, but saw no sign of her. Heaving another sigh at the missed opportunity, I proceeded toward campus again. On my way there, I opened one of the water bottles and guiltily took a drink.
After being at the field for a couple of hours, I walked back with Larry and a couple of the brothers. As we passed the meeting hall, I noticed a plastic cup filled with water on the steps. When we got home, I related my story to Larry, and he said maybe the woman was an angel, as it says in Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not forget hospitality, for through this some, without knowing it, have entertained angels.” If that’s the case, I’m glad I turned around… and maybe that cup of water on the steps was from someone else who was also slow in obeying the Lord’s speaking.