This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)
We met “Sheila” (or rather, one of her children) the first day we met people in the Neighborhood (our name for a local government assisted housing project). I thought she was rude.
After our friend Cathy introduced us to several of her neighbors, she had to return home. We still had one bag of produce left. So, we knock on the next door. A young boy (around 11-12) answered the door. He said his mother was on the phone and couldn’t come to the door. (I thought that was rude.) I gave him the bag of fruits and vegetables and told him we were friends of their neighbor Cathy. He said, “Okay,” then took the produce and closed the door.
The next week, when we returned to the neighborhood, we had a great time visiting the neighbors that we had met the previous week… well, except for Sheila’s family. Once again, when we knocked on her door, one of her children answered – I think it was her 8 year old daughter this time, with the toddler not far behind. Once again, she said her mother was on the phone and couldn’t come to the door. I gave her the bag of produce and left.
On the way home, I talked to Margaret (my wife) about how rude it was for this lady to send her children to the door. I mean, she was only talking on the phone. She could always call back. There was only one word to describe it – RUDE!
This went on for several weeks. I would knock on the door. One of the children would open the door and explain that their mother was on the phone. The child would take the fruits and vegetables, and that would be the end of it. We knew very little about this family except that there were at least three children and the mother was rude.
One week, some friends decided to join us. So, we went through the neighborhood in two different groups – one group with me, and one group with Margaret. Our group had a great time talking to the neighbors. We were able to spend more time with each person, and (since our friends bought produce, too) we were also able to meet a few new neighbors.
Being the kind gentleman that I am, I left Margaret with the responsibility of stopping by Sheila’s house. When we met up again, Margaret was excited to tell me what happened. This time, when Margaret knocked on the door, Sheila answered. She talked to Margaret for a long, long time. Apparently, Sheila works on Saturday mornings, and when she was “on the phone”, she was actually working. (wow… imagine that… Not only did I misunderstand her, I was the one being rude by interrupting her work.)
Margaret and Sheila hit it off immediately. She told Margaret that she was divorced, and actually had four children. The daughter that we had not met was away at college. Over the next few weeks, Margaret always went to Sheila’s house, and she always talked to Sheila. If she was working, then she would ask Margaret to come back by. When Margaret came back, Sheila would be on the porch waiting for her. The thing that Margaret noticed first about Sheila was how much she appreciated the produce that we brought, and how much she appreciated that time that Margaret spent with her.
We also found out that besides working to support her family, Sheila also attended community college. She would finish her classes soon, and then would do an internship. She wanted to find a better job in order to support her family better.
Sheila has had a rough life. I’m surprised that she ever started talking to us in the first place. I imagine that it is very difficult for her to trust people, especially men. But, I will have to tell more of Sheila’s story another time.