Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The woman with the boxes

She stood with boxes of food heaped haphazardly at her feet. She looked around worriedly, trying to catch someone's eye.

She caught mine.

"Could you help me with these boxes?" she asked.

I told her I could after I deliver one more box to another person I was helping. Her eyes relaxed.

Along with dozens of others, we were at First Presbyterian Church of Biloxi; I was helping distribute food and cleaning supplies, she was one of those receiving.

She expressed her gratefulness as I hoisted the boxes and carried them to her friend's car.

She soon told me she had moved to Biloxi from the Philippines three months ago. She had been working at a restaurant. Her husband had begun a job at a local casino three weeks before Katrina.

Both restaurant and casino were now gone. And her home was unhabitable; she was staying with the friend who drove her over to the church.

And now her friend was crying on the shoulder of another volunteer; about what, I did not know.

So, we simply continued our conversation. I told her I hope the Lord blesses her through her time of need.

At this, she perked up a bit.

"He already has," she said. "The hurricane helped many families. Some families that did not have time for each other, now they do. Now people have time to come to church."

Out of my mouth, that would have sounded calloused. But from her, a woman who has no job, who has a husband with no job, who has no home, who has no place else to easily move in this vast country that is so new to her, the words were beautiful. Only the suffering can say some things.

We hugged and blessed each other. And now that her friend said she "had no more tears to cry," they drove away.

The other volunteer was a bit broken up.

"Sometimes, I just don't know what to say," she said.

"If words could fix everything," I said, pointing to the piles of canned food against the wall, "we wouldn't need all of this."

But maybe I was wrong. Those words of hope and acceptance of what God has done in her life were the kind of words that do fix everything.

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