Notes from Jan

The Unexpected Jesus

August 7, 2022

He paced the median strip, while cars idled at the red light in Revere. I was on my way to pick up my granddaughter, Lily, at Logan airport. So happy she was coming, which is part of why you haven’t heard from me since she arrived. Back to the pacer.

The man wore tattoos like body armour. A scruffy beard hid most of his face and the beat-up base ball cap corralled a mop of hair, more than announced an affiliation with any team. From the safety of my car, I read his cardboard sign. “ANY THING HELPS.” Fortunately, I thought, the light will turn green before he reaches me.

While I watched, no one offered anything to him. As for me, as long as there was space between us and I avoided eye contact, I could pretend he wasn’t there. Then Jesus showed up, maybe in this nameless man, but for sure in my spirit. I thought of words I recite on Sundays:

“We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.” Then laughed to myself, as I recalled the Sunday Poco, about age five responded, “I have!” as she sat on Lily’s lap in church.

Well, knowing enough about Jesus, I knew he wouldn’t be impressed if I excused myself with, “He’s not MY neighbor.” Meanwhile, the light remained red. Then I saw him make the turn and head down the strip towards me. Again. I fumbled in my purse and found a dollar. The folded twenty, tucked between credit cards was for emergency use. Only.

As he approached, I opened the window and stuck out my attempt at ANY THING HELPS. One buck. We hooked eyes, then he smiled. It was a beauty of a smile. I said, ‘Hi. God bless you, sir.” Flimsy words on my part, though I prayed, later, God would bless him. And he took the money but didn’t rush to the next car. He kept looking at me. It felt soul deep. One person made in God’s image seeing another made in God’s image. Both pronounced, “Good!”

Then he said, “I hope you have a really good day, M’am. And thank you.”

As I drove away I thought I should’ve said, “Thank YOU, for the million dollar smile.”

Holy stop light!

Holy unexpected Jesus.

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  • Reply Kris August 7, 2022 at 2:20 pm

    I love you Momo!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 8, 2022 at 12:48 pm

      And I love you. I’ve known you since you were six, very dear Kris. Through the years you and Heather remained best friends. And knowing you, I’m sure you’d have kept the dollar and given him the $20. As a physician and a mom you’ve learned how to recognize a real emergency.

  • Reply dale August 7, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    Guilt is good when prompted by the Holy Spirit which this was. I try to look at individuals as you mentioned as age five and six and wonder whether one more hug might have helped. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 8, 2022 at 1:07 pm

      Well, my dear friend, I suppose it’s a combo of guilt and grace. I don’t always respond and connect as I did this time. Maybe I was nudged subconsciously by the small sign that rests on my kitchen counter. it’s from World Vision and shows the face of a child. Next to his image are these words: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you….?”(Matthew 25:37(NIV) Maybe I should put it on my dashboard. Somehow, over time the words got into me and combined with God’s Spirit, I acted. Upon reflection, it probably meant more that he felt seen. Me, too. ANY THING HELPS. I hope and pray it helped.

  • Reply Suzy Young August 7, 2022 at 3:36 pm

    Jan: Some years ago I read a book based on the same sort of experience. It was called “The Power of Half” and it has challenged me ever since I read it. Thank you for doing this piece. Suzy

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 8, 2022 at 1:18 pm

      You’re so welcome, dear Suzy. I looked up the book you referred to. Fascinating story of a family that decided to sell their home and give half of the proceeds to charity. To those who read this post and the responses, the author is Kevin Salwen. Thank you for adding this book idea, Suzy. Some readers have commented to me off-line that they gain even more by what others write in response to a post. Me, too.
      It’s been hard for me to picture England HOT. Hope you’re still there, enjoying Balden House and surrounding area. DC is probably hotter, in more ways than one. Love always to you , David and famly.

  • Reply Russell K Bishop August 7, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    Random act of kindness. Not your first one either!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 8, 2022 at 1:24 pm

      As one who’s been the recipient of much kindness, I’ve grown to recognize how little it takes to tilt a day up or down. Hope your day is a thumb’s up kind of day, despite the HEAT. It won’t be long before sweater weather returns. Meanwhile, thanks for reading, Russ, and for your encouragement. Hope we can soon gather the bible study group together at my Perch. I’ll cook, which depending on the outcome, coud be an act of kindness or not.

  • Reply Joyce Ruppell August 9, 2022 at 11:29 am

    In my travels along our roadways I always feel the need to give something when I encounter these folks in need. I have Blessing Bags at the ready with snacks toiletries and scripture verses. I also give water on hot days. Jesus calls us to minister to all and be his hands!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 10, 2022 at 12:18 pm

      Wow! You are prepared, dear Joyce. Thank you for sharing this idea with readers of the blog. I like the category: Blesssing Bags. And I’m sure those who receive something given in love get a sense of their worth. Through the years, I’ve learned that people with little are most grateful and generous. Scripture verses alone, while they may mourish the soul, do little to fill empty stomachs. You’re wise to include snacks!

  • Reply Wendy August 22, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    I was in this same situation yesterday! And… thought the same things you did… only he didn’t get to my car. As I drove away I didn’t feel relief though – just sadness. And I literally thought “what would Jesus have just done there???) Maybe I need to keep something in my car (healthy protein bars and bottled water?) that I can give away… Lord give me love and wisdom!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 23, 2022 at 12:19 pm

      We all need extra “wisdom and love”, dear Wendy. It helps if we expect to bump into Jesus in one way or another. As his sign read, ANY THING HELPS. Most of to be seen.

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