Tonight I met Annie. I was driving in Ithaca and there at the intersection was a young woman holding up a sign that read “out of work and hungry, please help.” This woman, or should I say girl, was young and looked less like she was homeless (I hate that – do the homeless actually have a look) and more like someone who had ran away from home. So I pulled my car into the nearest parking lot and walked over to talk to this woman.
Her name is Annie and she is from Wisconsin. She came out to Ithaca to stay with a friend but the friend is poor as well and had two children to worry about feeding. So there was Annie asking for help.
We struck up a conversation that was mostly about her circumstances. What struck me was her humble demeanor flavored with gratitude. I only had five dollars on me and I offered it to her.
She asked me if that was all I had and I said “yes!”
She said “what I mean is… you only have a five dollar bill and not any singles… because I don’t want to take your last bit of money.”
I replied “this is all I have on me but you are not going to take my last dollar by taking this.”
Now I normally make it a rule to refrain from giving out cash for the obvious reasons. However Annie did not have that Crack or Meth addiction look to her. She just looked like someone who ran into some hard times, maybe made some bad choices.
As we continued our conversation, I told her that I was a minister and gave her my card. I said that we might be able to help her in some more substantial ways, as several of our members work in the social-work field. I then told her that I did not believe God created any of us to live in need to the point that we are left to worry about how we are going to eat.
Annie responded “I believe in Jesus but I also believe that sometimes we make mistakes that we have to live with.”
I am not sure what those mistakes were for Annie and I did not feel it was my right to ask either. However I did respond.
“Annie, I believe in Jesus too” I said. “And I believe Jesus came to show us grace and mercy rather than to make us suffer the consequences of our past mistakes. If I had to suffer the consequences of my past mistakes, I would not be standing here talking to you right now.”
At this point I stopped as I could see her bottom lip start to quiver. I am not sure how Annie arrived at the point of life she is in now but I am quite sure she longs for something better.
When I meet the Annie’s of this world, I am always frustrated because I feel so helpless. I hear echoes of Jesus telling his disciples before the crowd of five thousand “You give them something to eat.” So I try and do what I can. Maybe that is enough. Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and turned them into enough food to feed the entire crowd. I guess I just need to trust God to turn that five dollar bill into enough doe to help Annie stay off the street corners of Ithaca.