From "In His Glory, A Book of Miracles"
The Lady at St. Louis Cathedral
Ever been in a really bad relationship? I mean a really bad one that doesn't end well and leaves you, well, bitter? Oh, I know. We should never be bitter. However, being human and less than perfect, there are times when a person may drive us to extremes. Though my advice today would be to pray, forgive the person who hurt you, and follow the Lord's teachings, many times I have fallen long and hard from Grace. I know God loves us, I can testify to that. The Lord is with us always, but sometimes he shows up in places and forms we don't expect when we least expect it. Now, that being said, one day a couple of years back, I had just gotten out of a very bad and very wrong relationship. I was bitter and, on that particular day, though I won't go into detail, I was angry. I felt betrayed and I was trying to squelch my somewhat self-induced pain. That's where the story begins.
I set out that day to run an errand in the French Quarter. Since parking can be scarce or somewhat inconvenient in that area, I parked my car in a pay lot. When I was done, I headed back to my car and that was when I met her: The Lady at St. Louis Cathedral. From the moment I saw her, I knew that the Holy Spirit was near. I could feel it. Now the parking lot I was headed to was behind the Westin, not far from Decatur Street in New Orleans. That particular lot was an open lot. For those of you who are not from or have not been to New Orleans, there are many open- air parking lots where you put your money in a slot for a coordinated, numbered, space. Many of those lots now have automated machines that take a credit or debit card. However, at that time, some still took money the old fashioned- way with a live toll taker. Some of those lots also didn't accept debit or credit cards at that time either. Now in the frame of mind I was in, the last thing I wanted to do was be stranded, even briefly, in a parking lot down town. That being said, I decided to stop at an ATM on my way back to the car and get some cash.
Armed with a total of $26.00 and hungry because I missed lunch, I headed back to my car while looking for a place to grab something quick to eat. Though I was hungry, I didn't want to pay tourist prices for lunch (for that I could use my debit card) and I wasn't feeling very sociable either. I was simply too busy feeling sorry for myself to stop for a lengthy, sit-down, lunch. "I can find a quick sandwich somewhere" I thought, but that was not that case. As I continued my journey, my route took me in front of St. Louis Cathedral. That was when she stopped me. As I passed right in front of the cathedral a lady spoke to me. She was dark skinned with short, graying, hair that was cropped close to her head and she appeared to have cataracts in both eyes. Though I can't tell you how well those eyes could see, I can tell you what she asked me. "Ma'am can you help me get some food?" she asked as I made my way past the cathedral doors.
Just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes and pain to my heart for many, many, reasons not the least of which was guilt. No, I didn't ignore her, but I wouldn't say I went out of my way to help her either. Scary thing is that I sensed the Holy Spirit was with her or around her and it didn't stop me from thinking what I was thinking. I was hungry. I was mad at the world and I remember kind of wanting to just walk past her. "Why should I be nice to anyone or help anybody when I feel like this?" I thought. However, I did obey my conscience and I stopped to give her some money. I was going to give her the $6.00 cash I didn't think I needed for the parking lot. Now bear in mind I wasn't planning to, nor did I, offer her the $20.00 I had in my wallet even though I could have gotten more money out the bank. (Strike one)
As I was thinking about giving her the $6.00, knowing full well she couldn't get a real meal in the area we were in, I rationalized that she could get a coke and a bag of chips from the little convenience store. As I tried to hand her the money she said " No, I don't want the money. Can you help me get some food?"
I will never forget that woman's eyes. Her plea was almost heartbreaking. At that point, I honestly didn't know where the closest restaurant was. Also, my impression was that she wanted me to bring her to a place to get food or get food and bring it back to her. Though my heart was somewhat moved, my head was just not in the right place. I just wanted to give her the money and go. Again, I tried to put the money in her hand, but she just pushed it away and said "I don't want your money. Can you help me get some food?"
I told her that I really didn't know where to get food just then and that I was looking for an inexpensive place myself. Since I was looking for a way to help her quickly and go, I basically insisted that she take the money. I practically pushed the money into her hand and she finally, very reluctantly, relented. I then returned to my own search with my conscience nagging me the entire time. I had the most distinct impression that the Holy Spirit was there. I remembered His words and considered how He very well might come to visit. I remembered that he said how we treat the least of them is how we treat Him. I just knew He was right there, watching, in my heart, and right there with me. I will never forget that woman's eyes.
A couple of blocks down the way, it may have been only one block away, on the corner, I found Camellia Grill. I went in and ordered myself a hamburger. As I sat at the bar waiting, I knew I just couldn't do it. I had to bring that lady something to eat. I had to bring her back some food. I simply could not ignore her plea. I didn't want to. I made up my mind to order her a sandwich and return to the square to give it to her. I just wish you could have heard her plea for help getting food. Anyway, I wasn't sure what to order for her and, once again, a little bit of selfishness arose on my part. "A sandwich is cheaper than a hamburger" I thought. Of course, I rationalized this by saying I really didn't know what she would eat. Ever do that? Ever rationalize something because you don't feel like doing it or out of laziness or lack of faith?
I ordered the lady a ham and cheese sandwich. Honestly, it took a little while to get my food. It might have been 30 to 45 minutes before I got my food and ate it. After which I hurriedly made my way back to bring her the sandwich, do the right thing, and relieve my guilty conscience. I did this after I ate. I did this after I left her there while me and my two good eyes went to get food. I did this instead of bringing her to the restaurant with me. (Strike two. Hey batta batta swing.)
I headed back to find the lady, but when I got back to Jackson Square, she was gone. My eyes scanned the area of the square by the Cathedral, but I didn't see her anywhere. Ut oh. While I was looking for the lady a very friendly man came up to me and complimented me on my boots. He was one of the many peaceful, friendly, pan-handlers that you find in the square. The man was peddling shoe shines and he had a nice, happy, appealing, approach. I spoke with him briefly and after I declined his earnest offer, he asked me what I was doing. I explained about the lady and the sandwich. He said he knew the lady I was talking about and that she was usually there each day. He helped me scan the area and he didn't see her either. She was gone. However, the man said he would like a sandwich and I was happy to give it to him. My conscience was heavy with guilt, but don't worry, I guess I didn't strike out completely.
As it turned out, I had the opportunity to help two people that day and I truly believe that I was in the presence of the Holy Spirit as I looked into the lady's eyes. I realize there are some of you who may be skeptical and that's part of why I wanted to share these stories. I don't know if that lady goes to the French Quarter every single day. Maybe she does. Maybe to you she was or is just a panhandler. Maybe you have seen that lady or someone just like her. All I know is what I felt. I know that the timing of someone making me think about God was perfect. That day I was distracted from some very real pain and anger and given the opportunity to help someone else. I know that the timing of someone making me remember God and His word was perfect. On one of my worst days, I felt the true presence of God in my heart and I'm pretty sure in that lady's eyes. My heart was less hardened. That was definitely a miracle.
I learned several lessons that day, I learned that you really can feel God in your heart and conscience. I was reminded that there are people with greater need than my own. I was reminded that it's better to help a person in need and that even what I considered generous was selfish. I have realized since, that with Faith, in Faith, I could have given that woman my last dollar and God would have provided. I realized I should have come out of my comfort zone to help another. I should have taken that woman to get food. Why is it we so seldom do what God asks? So, when your heart is hard and the days are long, please take a moment to ask yourself this: would you help the homeless person on the street? What if that was you? Wouldn't you want someone to help you? How important is that $20.00 really? What would you do if you were hungry, couldn't see very well, and didn't have a way to get food? What if the one asking was God? God is among us. He lives in your heart and He is part of our core. He is part of who we are if only we embrace Him. That is what this book is about. That is a miracle.
"In His Glory, A Book of Miracles", Chapter 1, © 2013 Leslie S. Miller