I took the boys with me, a Mama and son date. Tia spent the weekend having her girly tank filled with her cousins. They did hair and played dolls and giggled and laughed. And so it was that I was alone with the boys for three days and errands were an unwanted necessity.
The kid’s school requires uniforms so I’ve been on a quest for the cheapest shirts possible however, the color shirt they’re required to wear is not very common, which lead us to the uniform shop in a rougher part of town to pick up several shirts specific to their school.
We rolled to a stop after exiting the highway and Sloan saw him first. He was standing back from the road a bit, his thin slice of carboard offering a two word plea.
Had I been alone, shamefully, I would have ignored him. I would have stared straight ahead so as not to make eye contact and avoid the awkward. I would have said no to the least of these.
But I wasn’t alone. I was in the car with a nine year old who is determined to change the world – a nine year old who just might do that someday if I don’t mess him up.
“Mom, give him some money! He needs help!” He said this as he rooted for loose change and reached for my purse. But I didn’t have any money. I never have cash on me. Cash means Starbucks to me so I rarely carry it to avoid the temptation.
“I don’t have money, babe,” I said, regret lacing my words.
“Yes you do,” he cried, holding up a handful of coins triumphantly. One quarter, one dime, one nickel and one penny. Every coin represented.
“Honey, that’s not really much money. It won’t help him. You can’t do anything with .41¢.”
“Well, he can save it, then, until he gets a little more,” Sloan replied and really, how could I say no? My child was asking me to do good. Like I said, here’s to hoping I don’t mess him up…
I rolled down the window and motioned the man near. He walked with a limp to the car window. “I’m sorry it’s not more,” I said, my face flushing a bit. Why was I embarrassed? Why do I still feel like I must do something big for it to hold any lasting impact? “It’s all we had and we wanted to help.”
The man took the four coins with dusty hands and his eyes filled with tears. “Ma’am,” he said as he separated the penny from the rest of the group and held it up in the sunlight. “If you had just given me this one penny, it would have been enough but you chose to give more. I can’t tell you what this means to me.”
I smiled and blinked back my own tears. The stoplight was soon to change, I knew this, so I turned quickly and pointed to my freckle-faced boy. “It was his big heart who wanted you to know that we see you and we love you and we will be praying for you.”
Sloan leaned forward so he could see out the window and the man looked at him deep. “You’re a good young man,” he said. “Listen to your Mama and stay in school, you hear me? And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough, because you are.”
The light turned green and we moved forward. The man stepped back from the road and as we made our left turn, I looked back to see his face buried in his hands, his shoulders heaving. In his clutched fist, he held tight to .41¢.
We pulled into the uniform store a few minutes later and Sloan looked at me with heavy eyes. “We should do more for him,” he said and I nodded. I felt it, too. “Like, can we buy him a house or something?” he asked. Just like his Mama, he thinks big.
I smiled and ruffled his thick hair. “We can’t buy him a house, but we could buy him a meal,” I said and he smiled. So that’s exactly what we did. After picking up shirts for the next school year, we swung through a local restaurant and ordered a meal and a bottle of water then rushed back around to the spot where we first met him.
He was gone.
Sloan’s face fell as he clutched the bag of fries and burgers. “Where did he go?” he asked, his face scanning left and right. “Oh I see him!” Landon screeched from the back seat, excited to be a part of this moment with his brother. Our friend sat under a bridge with another man. He was smoking and speaking animatedly.
“How are we going to get to him, Mom?” Sloan asked and just then the man stood up and started walking back toward our corner. We didn’t have long. I grabbed the food, jumped out of the car and waved at him, setting the food on the curb then rushing back to the car. He hurried over, his face registering shock.
“I was just telling my friend Peter about how much you blessed me and now this?” He looked genuinely surprised. The light turned green and I pulled forward. “God Bless you!” he called as we rounded the corner and he disappeared. A few minutes later, as we merged on the highway, Sloan spoke up again. “Will we see him again, Mom?” he asked.
“Probably not,” I said.
“Can I pray for him now?” Sloan asked and I nodded my head yes. And with eyes swimming, I drove us home while my nine year old demonstrated a faith that moves mountains. The faith of a child.
Did you know that .41¢ could change the world?
Yeah, I didn’t realize it either…