Within 10 minutes one Saturday, I encountered two very different little girls. One little girl was with her mother in the middle of a parking lot. Their old car was stuffed full. They were not moving somewhere or going on vacation. Their car was clearly their home. They had no gasoline and were stuck. This little girl had short messy blonde hair and was wearing a dingy cotton dress. Her dirty feet donned flip flops. She was playing some kind of pretend with a laundry basket turned upside down with a towel over it like a table cloth.
I noticed the car and the woman when I pulled into the shopping center but didn’t go to see if they needed help until I was leaving. It was a bright sunny morning. They were parked out in the open so I felt it was safe to see about them. I pulled my car around and got out.
The scrappy little girl was playing, but when she saw me, she stopped and drew closer to her mother. Her mother wore shorts and a t-shirt that hung loosely to her extremely thin frame. The little girl relaxed a little when she saw I was friendly. Upon my inquiry, the mother didn’t over explain, she simply said they had run out of gas. She explained that it was hot and she felt dehydrated and just couldn’t walk the two blocks to get gas. I’m guessing money had a little something to do with it as well. She had a one gallon gas can sitting outside the driver’s door.
The longer she and I spoke, the more comfortable the little girl became and went about playing her pretend game with the basket. Noticing the dance studio logo on my t-shirt, the mother told me about how she was looking into dance classes for her daughter for the fall. Oh, the dreams we have for our children, even when starving and homeless.
I offered to go fill their can. She was very appreciative. Assuring her that I would be right back, I put the can in my car. The little girl didn’t like me taking their gas can. She started to reach for it. I guess when you ride around with all of your worldly possessions in a car, every item is important. Her mother assured her that I was going to help them.
Driving to the gas/food mart, I thought about and prayed for the mother and little girl. Was mom on drugs? Was the little girl safe? Writing this a few weeks later, I still don’t know.
Enter the second little girl. At the gas/food mart, I went in to buy them some water and snack items. I picked up another gas can that was two gallons. Three gallons of gas could get them to a shelter. Standing in line to pay, there was a little girl about the same age. She had long black hair in pretty ringlets and a cute shorts outfit on. She read the dance studio name on my shirt and proceeded to tell her mom, “That’s where I dance.” I smiled at her and we talked about the upcoming recital.
I took the water and fuel back to the mother and her daughter in the parking lot. Handing it to them, I also offered the phone number to a women’s shelter. The mother was very appreciative, calling the daughter over to take the bag for water and food items while she tended to the fuel.
These two mothers and daughters have been in my thoughts and prayers since. One little girl played pretend with odd household items. Living out of a car, for all I know, she and her mother just move from parking lot to parking lot. No roots, nothing stable, but the mother had dreams for her little girl. She probably worried about day to day food and location. But in her heart, she had dreams of her little girl dancing.
The second little girl was already dancing. It wasn’t a “someday” that would never happen. She too had a mother who provided for her, but her mother’s concerns probably weren’t their next meal or where they would lay their head. No doubt her mother had dreams for her as well.
Encounters like these remind me that everything happens for a reason. Why did I encounter two little girls that were both very much the same and so very different ten minutes apart? Is there a lesson to be learned?
Some things I’ve thought about:
- Dreams don’t cost anything. They are free and available to everyone. When they invade our minds, they provide a wonderful escape from reality – no matter what that reality is.
- There will always be those in need around us. What did that few minutes and money for the fuel cost me? Absolutely not. It blessed me. Weeks later I’m not worried about who got voted off the island, I’m still thinking about the encounter. That little girl and all the potential children represent. It changed me a little.
- God has a plan and purpose in everything. We aren’t puppets, but he uses every situation to glorify Him. I said nothing about Jesus to these people. Hopefully I showed them a little bit about Him though.
- Yes, the mother in the car could have been on drugs. But the little girl didn’t need to suffer because of it. My prayer is she used the phone number to get help and shelter.
- I learned more from my encounter with the homeless mother and daughter than I did the mother and daughter at the food mart. But seeing both in a short period of time gave impact to the whole situation.
- If I had to guess, living out of a car with her little girl was not the mother’s original plan; or dream for that matter. How did she get to this point? How many bad decisions followed by bad situations happened to bring her to this moment?
- Be in the moment. Stopping to help the lady and her daughter was not in my plan, but it’s what needed to happen in that moment. I didn’t spend those few minutes helping them but thinking about the rest of my list. Slow down. Look people in the eye when they talk to you and listen.