Homeless shelters and international charities need my help, but what about the people closer to home?
The other night, I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. It was raining, and I was listening to the drops hit the ground. I began to pray. I imagined the millions of starving people. The thought of the many poor souls in need overwhelmed me. I asked God where I should send my aid. Where would my money and talents best be used? I already give to a homeless shelter in New York and one in Akron, Ohio, my hometown, but I didn’t think that was enough.
Funny, that night, I got an answer. This doesn’t usually happen. Usually, I have to wait a while to see what God wants of me.
But that late night, I sensed God wanted me to concern myself with three people in my immediate circle. If I did this, I would be doing his work.
It was nice to have my prayers answered so quickly.
I knew which three individuals needed my assistance—Becky Simon, Sam Palmer and Jenny Weber. They all had different circumstances, but the one thing that tied them all together was their extreme loneliness.
“Yes, Lord,” I said. “I can do this.”
Becky is 57. Ten years ago, she and her husband divorced. She found herself completely alone. And only a month before, she’d had to stop teaching due to a physical disability. Becky was without a husband, without a job, without a home.
Becky applied for Section 8 and got it, moving into an efficiency apartment. Her main source of income was her elderly father, who gave her enough to pay rent and utilities. She also received food stamps.
Then, she got some more bad news. She has MS.
A few weeks ago, Becky reached out to me.
“I’m trying to get on disability,” she said on the telephone. “They’ve turned me down three times.”
“That’s crazy. But now that you’ve got MS, I bet it’s only a matter of time.”
“I hope so.”
The next day, I decided to take Becky to the thrift store. She had no money, so I gave her $25.00. Becky needed boots for winter, and she found a nice pair for $4.00.
I could see the life coming back to her. She picked out three Christmas shirts. She wants to be festive—a good sign.
I found a beautiful bath set and knowing she had no extra money, I bought it for her.
She went home with bags of things she needed and with some joy, which she needed more. She was poor; she was forgotten; she was needy. And I could help her. I praised God for this.
Number two on my list was a fellow named Sam, my neighbor. He’s 89. Whenever I see Sam, he says the same thing.
“Laura, I just want to die. I pray to God to take me. I’m just so sick and tired.”
“You’re still here for a reason,” I say.
Sam is weak and sick. He can barely stand. But when I call him on the phone, he perks up. We discuss our lives.
I told him how our dog, George, chewed up three of my son Tommy’s retainers, at $350.00 a pop.
“That’s over $1000.00,” he said. “Can you believe that?”
“The vet told me George is a lemon.”
Sam laughed. “A lemon?”
“He’s chronically ill.”
“What’s he got?
“He had what they thought was a cancerous tumor on his foot. His pancreas was infected. His spine was bothering him, and now he’s got laryngitis.”
“Laryngitis? I didn’t know dogs can get that.”
“Neither did I. Last month, we spent $500.00 on blood tests and X-rays. He’s costing us a fortune.”
“I guess he is a lemon.”
Calling Sam occasionally is all he needs. Oh, and an occasional plate of chocolate chip cookies.
Taking care of Sam isn’t too hard.
And I am starting to really care for him. He’s like a second father to me.
Friend number three was Jenny Weber. Morbidly obese, she is a shut-in.
You’d think Jenny would be depressed, but she is one of the happiest, funniest people I know.
Caring for Jenny amounts to keeping up our friendship, mostly by phone.
Once when she did allow me into her home, it was a joyous occasion.
“I don’t let too many people see me.” Jenny is extremely embarrassed by her size.
“I’m just glad you let me in,” I told her softly.
Jenny Weber used to be a Food Service Director at a nursing home. After she got laid off, she got depressed and gained weight. Then, she injured herself and couldn’t exercise. She spends most of her time in a bariatric recliner.
Making Jenny happy isn’t hard. I ask her for her favorite recipes from her working days. She has them all memorized, and she recites them to me in great detail. My favorite is her balsamic chicken.
What Jenny really needs is lots of prayer. I pray that she could take off the weight (she needs to lose at least 200 pounds), that she could walk again, that she could one day leave her house. I pray that I can always be there for her.
That rainy night, God revealed to me that being charitable didn’t mean I had to take care of the whole world. He wanted me to take care of the people close to me.
I’m still giving to the homeless shelters in New York and Ohio, but I’m finding ways to aid these people close-by too. It’s the best of both worlds.
If you’re wondering how you can be a help to God’s children in the world, ask him whom you can assist.
He’ll tell you.