Anyway, we get to Evanston and after a rather uneventful exchange I jump back in the car and head toward home. Rock Springs is on the way home. In Rock Springs is a Golden Corral. For some reason unbeknownst to us at the time, dad had a craving for... the worst.food.ever.
Seriously, this place makes the Country Buffet look like five-star dining. And we aren't even hungry. Nearly $20 later, we're sitting at a dirty booth and eavesdropping on a father who is clearly fed up with his dirty children. "Seriously?" I think, "I can't believe you're treating your kid like that." and as his toddler bawls his eyes out, he continues to shout his slurred frustrations at them. My heart sinks, I lose my appetite and it's all I can do to stab my knife at the half dry meatloaf on my plate rather than brandish it in his direction.
Possibly out of embarrassment, the guy stands up and offers an excuse for the way he and his own are acting: he is a single dad, going through a divorce, raising two boys who aren't wanted by their mother.
Enter the Holy Spirit and commence heart wrecking. I pray, "Lord, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I thought bad about him when I didn't even know him. Please give him strength and restore his hope. Guide him, provide for him, send him someone to love him to You."
I've given up on my food and watch as dad surveys the rest of the buffet. After about ten minutes of crying into my plate I go looking for him and find him outside talking to the guy as his children play on the restaurant property. Dad comes back in and gives me the low down on Jerry. He'd recently (within the last year) been in a near fatal accident which damaged his spinal cord, broke his ribs, hips, shoulder and left him partially brain damaged. Shortly after the accident his wife and the mother of their two boys left him. He has no job and stands in line every day, beginning at 6am, at the local temp office waiting for work to support his boys.
Heart is effectively smashed to smithereens. I suggest to dad that we help him in anyway possible. He replies, "I gave him all the cash on me." to which I counter, "That's not enough."
Jerry's two adorable boys are ages 2 (Daxton) and 4 (Xander) and steal my heart with their sea green eyes and snotty smiles. "Jerry, let me bless you. What do the boys need?" I ask. He shakes his head and assures me they've got what they need.
"Don't be prideful, I want to bless you."
"No, it's really okay."
"Can I at least buy them a toy, each?" He agrees and I plop Daxton in Malachi's car seat, strap Xander in beside him and Jerry crawls into the last remaining back seat (their car is abandoned in a different parking lot because it has just broken down). We head to Walmart. As we stroll through the store, I grab winter coats, cold medicine, vitamins and allow them to pick out a toy of their choice. We finish with a new leather Bible for Jerry and a $25 gift card for groceries.
Dad and I simultaneously glance over to Jerry and notice that his eyes are gleaming with tears. He says, "Two weeks ago I was asking God to show Himself to me. To help me know He's real and that He loves me. I've been looking for Him but didn't know how to find Him."
Smashed heart begins to soar. "Jerry," I begin, "This is His answer to you. We're doing this so that you know how much you're loved."
Jerry, Daxton and Xander live about a dozen blocks from Walmart. We take them home and enter their tiny little house to make sure they're all settled before we head out. Dad signs his Bible, writes down Romans 8:1-2 and Jeremiah 29:11 and says, "Jerry, have you ever accepted Jesus as your savior?" When he shakes his head, dad asks him if he wants to. "Yes." he chokes out. So, in that tiny little living room filled with hopelessness and pain we begin to pray. Jerry can barely get the prayer out he's crying so much. Apparently Jerry didn't even cry when his mother died or when his brother went to jail. But, he's crying now and he says they're happy tears.
Exit hopelessness. Enter joy, peace, hope, redemption, restoration, healing and LOVE.
Today wasn't such a bad day after all.
Romans 8:1-2 "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ
Jesus 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death."
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."