The $20 Pay It Forward

doorA good friend of LOTW recently had his house broken into. Many of his family’s valuables were stolen, such as their TV, computers, and cameras. This is the story of how in a time of distress he was still able to see God in a stranger and help them out. Can we do the same for him? Read the story below, and click on the link here if you would like to help offset the expenses of cleaning up and fixing his home.

It is Friday – for that I am thankful. It has been a rather long week. Monday I came home to find the front door kicked in, all of the electronics along with my guitar and a handful of personal affects stolen…and every closet, cabinet and drawer spilled all over the floor – the house, with the exception of my daughters’ room and my icon/prayer corner were completely ransacked.

It was a very long night that first evening. The police spent some time at the house and after they left, I had to secure the front door for the night until it could be permanently fixed. The girls were scared and they did not sleep well. They both woke up in the middle of the night several times as I slept beside them. At one point, they were crying and I took them in my arms and told them, “I love you and I am not going to let anything happen to you. We are safe and God is with us.” Then I prayed over them and they fell asleep in my arms. I remained vigilant through the night.

The next day, I had a monitored alarm system installed in the house using my employee discount as I work for a security company. I really should have had that done when we moved in last year.

I also took an inventory of the things I knew were stolen for certain: The TV, my electric guitar, BluRay player, Google Nexus tablet, Atrix mini-tablet, iPod touch, cell phone, my desktop PC, the laptop, my daughter’s laptop, my coin jar, my CRKT Kit Carson knife, my DSLR camera and lenses. We didn’t have much, but they took what we did have. To add insult to injury, they trashed nearly the entire house and the clean-up is still ongoing. I rent the house and sadly I had no renter’s insurance – I am in the process of remedying that now.

On Tuesday, I went to WalMart to get some blinds for the windows and some opaque curtain panels for the back door. We have sheer drapes which are wonderful for letting the light in, but we had no blinds which meant that at night, anyone could come to the back and side of the house and see everything in the living room and kitchen.

As I wandered the aisles at WalMart, I began to lament this entire thing. I was tired and sad that this happened and especially that my daughters were scared and that their things were stolen. We do not have much, but we were very thankful for what we did have. So as I felt a bit of sadness creep in, I began to think about how it was going to be a very long time before we could ever replace such things. We were already trying to save up for a new bed as ours is small and old and is hard to sleep in. How was I going to replace the things that were stolen – now my daughters weren’t going to be able to do one of our favorite family traditions – Movie Night – where we all sat on the couch and watched a movie together – or hopped on the bed and watched a movie on the computer while we all cuddled together.

As I pulled out of the parking lot at WalMart, I saw a woman standing at the end of the side road – she had two small children with her about the same age as my daughters. She held a cardboard sign which read: “Running out of food. God please help us” – I had a $20 bill and that was about all I had left. I pulled out thinking that someone was surely going to help this woman and her kids. And as soon as I thought that, I instantly turned my car into the small parking lot next to where they were standing. I got out of my car and walked across the street and handed her the $20 bill. She said, “What? Are you sure?!” I said, “I just had my house broken into last night and they took so much of our stuff and they trashed the place. I have two daughters about the same age as your kids. When we get home tonight, the one thing we have is food. When we run out of food I can get more food. They never go hungry and they do not have to worry about going hungry. We will not be able to watch TV or get on the computer because those things were stolen. But my children will have food tonight and so will yours. I was feeling sorry for myself and asking God why this happened. Then there you were with your children standing here asking God for help because you were running out of food. I am selfish way too often…and I almost passed you all by. But I do not want your kids going hungry. I wish I could do more, but I hope this helps a little.”

She began to cry and said, “Why are people so mean to each other? Why would someone do that to you and your girls? I am so sorry. What is your name?” I said, “My name is Matthew…and it’s ok, we are all safe and it’s just stuff.” She said, “Matthew, my name is Sarah and I am going to pray for you guys.” I said, “Thank you, Sarah (then I got a bit teary eyed). We are going to pray for you all as well.”

We hugged and I said, “Never forget that God loves you and your children. And there are resources and place you can go for help so you guys do not have to be hungry.” Sarah said, “We’ve been to a couple of those places but right now I do not have a car and I don’t want to lose my kids. But I will go there if it gets really bad.” I drove home feeling foolish for being despondent about what happened to us.

After I finished installing the blinds and curtains, I took a small break to have a bite to eat. As I was looking at my Facebook, I saw a message from a friend – it was time-stamped a few hours earlier – at the same time God put Sarah in my path, a friend sent me the following message:

“Would the girls like my Kindle Fire? It’s a couple of years old, but I don’t use it very often. It might as well be loved. and we have a small flat screen tv around here somewhere we want you to have once we find it. Ian is digging through the basement right now. Also, while we’re at it, might you like a dog, three cats, and a bunny? “

You see, we met some wonderful people in our catechesis classes a few months ago – Amy and Ian Henry. And Amy had sent me this message. What they saw as a way to help by giving us some small things they weren’t using, I saw as a gift of love that is beyond price. Sarah and her children were asking for God to help them as they stood on a corner in the cold hoping somehow…some way…to be able have food that day. I was sullen because my material items…luxuries all…were stolen and my sense of peace was violated and my girls were scared. And Amy and Ian were at the very same time showing us an act of friendship and love and answering a prayer I had prayed for my children. How moving it is that the love of God is manifest in often beautiful and mysterious ways.

Thank you to Sarah and her children, for being vessels of God’s love – I am praying for you and your children wherever you may be. Thank you to Amy and Ian and their family for loving us and for the precious gift of their friendship. I am forever thankful to God for all of you – my dear family and friends, not just during difficult days, but during the days of happiness – regardless of circumstance, I appreciate and love all of you.

If you would care to help, please click the link to donate whatever you can.

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