After a long day, my oldest daughter convinced me that Chipotle would be the best idea for dinner. We decided we would get carryout, watch the Olympics and enjoy a quiet night as a family.
As Emily and I walked into the restaurant, I noticed a man bundled up on the sidewalk, his face hidden by the furry brown hood of his coat. A cardboard sign propped up on his knee explained that he was homeless.
Standing in line to order our food, I looked around and noticed a room full of smiling, happy people eating overstuffed burritos and tacos. The conflict for me is always present. Abundance next to poverty and I never know what I am supposed to do. I leaned towards Emily and said, “I am going to go ask that man if he wants a burrito.”
As I walked back outside, I followed a family who set a small Chipotle bag next to this man along with some spare change. They quickly walked away while he graciously thanked them. I said hello and asked if I could order him a burrito. He looked up, his eyes bright, and patted his backpack with a gentle laugh. “I already got three burritos tonight! But thank you.” We smiled at each other, and I said, “Ok. Take care,” and walked back to join my daughter in line.
Days later, I continue to think about this encounter. My first thought is just gratitude for the people who generously shared three burritos with a man they don’t know.
I feel grateful that this man with the gentle laugh had enough to eat that night, but even though he had a backpack full of burritos, I can’t help but think of all of the many needs that simply cannot be filled while sitting outside of Chipotle. I know homelessness is complicated and confess I never know what to do. It feels overwhelming at times and not something I can resolve in the next three paragraphs. Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” I cling to this truth as I continue to wrestle.
Finally, as I take time to personally reflect during this Lenten season, I can’t help but wonder what fills my own backpack.
Lots of things fill my backpack. Sometimes joy and peace, sometime loneliness and worry. At times I stuff it with my daughters’ accomplishments or compliments I receive. There have been days when I find a mean lady in there who yells at my kids and berates me as a mom. Often, I fill it with a busy schedule which makes me feel productive as I check off a long list.
In the past, I have beaten myself up for the things that fill my backpack that I consider less than Godly or righteous or good. But this Lent, I think God is teaching me something else. God is asking me to bring my backpack to Him regardless of what is inside. I think it is important to stop running around and actually take time for quiet and solitude. It is in the early morning quiet that I sit before the Lord and bring Him everything I’ve been carrying. This often brings tears of regret and shame and fear, but also includes tears of joy and thankfulness. My backpack will always have both. As I reach in and humbly offer each thing up to God, I find there is freedom in confession as well as much forgiveness and grace.
Why not take a quiet moment today, to sit with the Lord and be honest with Him about all that you are carrying. His grace is sufficient for all of us.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10