The wind howled furiously around her, like a pack of ravenous wolves ready to devour the first living thing who dared to venture out in the bitter cold. She struggled and limped through the piles of snow on the sidewalk. Her husband walked beside her, mightily pushing their three-year-old son in his stroller, wheels catching and bowing to the pressure of the flakes, hardened by wind and footprints into biting balls of ice.
The young family decided to try to walk on the street, where snow plows had helped clear a way. Almost immediately, cars veered dangerously close to the child, and drivers angrily honked their horns. “Why don’t you get a job?” one driver yelled out as he hastily rolled his window down and back up. The woman bowed her head deeper as she thought about the years of schooling, her carefully crafted thesis, her pride when she walked across the stage to receive her master’s diploma. All for what? A low-wage, low-respect job with little opportunity for advancement. But “get a job?” She did work 40 hours a week already!
Indeed, she felt lucky to have any job. On a brighter, warmer day, she had owned a car and a better job. She had just married the love of her life, and the future looked hopeful as the bright morning sun. Soon, too soon, threatening storm clouds crowded out her sun, and the rain of life circumstances stole away her job.
A year after the wedding, she and her husband joyfully welcomed their new son into the world, but the pregnancy had destroyed all of her job interviews, and the bad economy winked at the selective racism discriminating against her dark-skinned husband as he struggled to find work. The mounting bills forced the family out of their heat and then out of their home by the time the infant was only three months old. They found friends to live with for a while, and then their car become their home.
That car was good to them and took them on a journey across the country to finally find a job and pay for housing once again. Life was getting better. But then the car, creaky and cantankerous as any soul who has lived past the fullness of her days, finally breathed her last, sputtering and sighing gently into death on the side of the road.
So here they were now, battling a snowy sidewalk, empty refrigerator mocking the hollow pain in their hearts. They finally made it into the warm air of the grocery store, festively decorated with holiday trees surrounded by the sounds of Salvation Army bells and piped-in songs proclaiming Merry Christmas and peace to all. As she stomped the snow off her boots, she thought about another mother long ago. “No room in the inn or in the hearts of men,” she thought. “Maybe nothing has really changed.”
They walked the aisles of the grocery store, carefully selecting items that fit into the carefully-planned, bursting-at-the-seams budget. They were grateful for the food, though, thanking God that their stomachs would be full tonight. They brought their food to the checkout counter and pulled out their food stamp card. They felt the angry stares bore holes into their backs and burn yet another scar into their hearts. “You are not welcome here. You takers. You just take and take from those who truly work hard.” The unspoken words thickened the air. She was suffocating, drowning in their hatred.
They left the store and turned back home. The cold wind sucked the air out of their lungs, and their small child began to cough. She reached down to pull the blanket up around his face, and a tear escaped from her eye and dropped glistening on her child’s forehead. She bent down and kissed him. “I love you so much.”
A divine voice whispered in her heart, “I love you so much, too.” She stood up and looked at the sky as the sun suddenly appeared from behind a snowy cloud. A beam of warmth landed on her face.
“But, God, life was never supposed to be this way.” She sniffed back tears and struggled hard against the depression, the hopelessness that threatened to engulf her life and snuff out the sunbeams.
“I know, my child. I see the cold hearts of people, I see how they’ve forgotten their oneness and their Creator and have become evil and oppressive to each other. I see it, and I will remember. Have hope. I am coming soon to restore righteousness on the earth. One day all will be well.”
She took a step forward and the air felt a little less cold, the wind a little less strong. She smiled. She thought about how healing begins with the least of these, and, somehow, she had been chosen by the mighty Creator for this journey.