“But for the grace of GOD, there go I” John Bradford

Recently, I recalled an interesting encounter I had at a 7-11 awhile back and just thinking about it made me smile.  Before I moved to my current location, I lived around the corner from a 7-11 and would stop in pretty much every day and ended up establishing a relationSHIP with a drug-addicted woman that hung out in front of the store. 

On our FIRST encounter, she asked for money and I gave it to her BUT I also gave her an explanation. I explained that I lived around the corner and that I would be coming to this 7-11 every day.  I explained that I would be coming from work, usually tired and suggested that when she sees me, she should refrain from asking me for money or spare change?  I explained that I didn’t have any spare change and didn’t expect to get any, any time soon and that my answer every day would be the same-NO. I further explained that if she were hungry, I’d buy her something to eat but wouldn’t support her drug addiction. I explained that it was important to have this worked out from jump street. As I established the boundaries, she listened attentively and agreed. Our relationSHIP boundaries were established. 

Every day she would solicit money from the other store patrons but not me. I would go to and from 7-11 freely. Although we exchanged cordialities she never asked for money. I would even give her shoeboxes filled with toiletries from the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Athens-Westmont section, in which I was a member.  This went on for a few years and she never asked me for any money. I was comfortable with our agreement but one day, while sitting in my car at 7-11, she yelled out, something that started with would you? or can I? Without even looking up, I found myself saying NO before I actually heard her request.

She came closer and said, “Ms. lady I haven’t asked you for anything in a long time. I am hungry and just want some money to buy some food”.  This made me smile because she had recalled and kept the agreement we made at least 3 years prior. I exited the car and didn’t respond. When I reached for the store’s door handle, I yelled back pizza or hot dog? She was startled and yelled back hot dog.  Since she was banned from coming inside the store, I dressed the hot dog, filled her drink up and before I gave it to her, we had a brief prayer.  Before I left the parking lot she was eating and smiling.

As I drove away, she waved and knew that just as she had, I kept up my end of our agreement.  Knowing that this woman has had her share of negative human encounters, I smiled knowing that I didn’t add to that kind of experience for her. I learned a lot from this experience and the woman from the 7-11. 

 It was obvious that this woman and I had chosen different life paths. Yet, I refused to see her as being the choices she had made.  I was unwilling to minimize her life by giving her a negative label or to identify her as a crack head. I had no right to see her as the life choices she chose to make. Instead, it was clear that my ONLY responsibility was to remind her that regardless of her drug issues, she was a child of GOD and worthy of HIS love.   

I moved and don’t know what happened to the woman but I do know that through our human encounter she no longer felt invisible. So, the next time you shave the opportunity to have a human encounter with someone in need, treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve and remember that it is: 

BUT by the grace of GOD I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of GOD that is with me”.  1 Corinthians 15:10 

SHIP TALK: Have you ever found yourself in a relationSHIP with someone less fortunate?  Did you encourage them?  If so, how?

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