Her hair hung down in limp and dirty blonde strands and a little girl Astair's age clung to her leg.
I noticed but I was distracted. Astair tugged on my arm and twirled in the fast food line. She danced in circles around me, darting in between my legs, just escaping my grasp. It was our mother-daughter date night and we chose Arby's. But my little pixie just couldn't stand still. Through the corner of my eye I noticed again the pair in front of us and I couldn't help but make the comparison between this mother and her daughter and me and my own. It was then my eyes landed on the child's bare feet. And my heart lurched inside me. No child should be barefoot even in a mild Louisiana December.
Astair skipped out of the line and I went to retrieve her, even while I peered more closely at the girl. Her blonde hair was pulled back from her face with an office clip and she stared back at me with eyes that looked much too old for her little face. Eyes that had seen too much of this world. I smiled and she frowned, her big blue eyes solemn and distrustful. The lady with the child stepped to the side and glanced at me for a moment. She wore a plain white t-shirt with nothing underneath and I knew in that instant what she was. I knew and it hurt my heart. Wrenched my soul for her and her little girl. I wanted to help her. But I didn't want to offend her. Or hurt her pride. What if she rejected my help? My mind scrambled for a loving way to reach out to her. How much had she paid for her meal? Five dollars? One combo meal? And what would the child eat?
The cashier was staring at me, waiting for my order and I fumbled through it, still desperate not to let this lady leave. I ordered an extra sandwich and an extra drink and then I approached the woman and the child. I smiled at her shyly, trying desperately to cover up my discomfort, hoping she wouldn't read it wrong. I told her I had ordered more food than we needed and I would be so happy if she would accept some. Her face looked relieved and her humble nod shamed all my selfish fears. I wished I had bought more, so much more. I wished I had noticed her earlier, had forgotten about myself for a moment and not been so concerned about her rejecting me.
Our food came and I let Astair give the bag to the little girl. Astair walked up to her so innocently and sweetly, only too happy to share. But the little girl frowned deeper and hid scared behind her mother. If my heart wasn't already broken, that would have crushed it. I could only imagine what this poor child had lived through. And I wanted to judge the woman for putting her through it. But I couldn't. I couldn't. Not knowing that Christ died for her, that He loves her, that maybe she's never known it. I gave her a hug and quietly slipped a card into her hand. A card that read the words "JUST BECAUSE GOD LOVES YOU". And I smiled at the little girl in the woman's eyes and I whispered "He does, you know."
I haven't written this to toot my own horn, or to bring attention to myself, because to be honest, I'm ashamed that I didn't give more. Ashamed that I didn't notice her sooner, that I hesitated in fear of rejection. I can only pray God will help me take my eyes off myself and notice the needs around me. And when I see the needs, to rush to meet them. Arms wide open, bleeding love as my Savior does.
Isn't that what Christmas is all about?