I know this is gonna sound really strange, but…
Several years ago, back when I was still sorta new to prophetic, street ministry, I was involved with a hooker. (Not that kind of involvement! Get your head out of the gutter!) I mean it was a Jesus thang. (Yeah, thang!) And it wasn’t just me either. The whole family got involved. And for a while, this hooker was practically a member of the family.
Let me back up just a bit. I need to say some unflattering things in some unflattering terms in order to tell a fitting story. Perhaps it’s better if you are 18 or older to read this one. But, I promise it is a love story.
Prophetic street ministry with hookers ain’t nothin’ like the movies. I don’t mean for you to imagine Julia Roberts running around with me. No. No high end call girls with furs and diamonds. No glam at all.
No. I am talking about $5 for 15 minutes of “love” in a car by a dumpster. Cheap. Real cheap. Dirty and cheap. Cheap and dirty. And quick, and on to the next.
I mean to stop and think about it is to be repulsed. And the money went up in crack just as fast as it came in!
Yeah. Cheap, dirty, fast, and poor.
But somehow our girl would clean herself up for a few days to come hang out with us. Strangest thing I ever saw. Hard core crack addict cleans up for two or three days every couple months to come over for dinner. And Christmas??? Yeah. We would make plans to come get her and keep her in our place for Christmas Eve and Christmas night – sober, I might add – just to be family for a couple days. And then the day after, I would drive her back to the crack house and drop her off with a plan to pick her up for worship on Sunday.
As you can imagine, assuming you can, loving a person like this can be expensive. People in this kind of mess have been in and out of psych facilities, jails, prisons, and group homes – you name it. And they are very manipulative. This one could turn all that off for just a day or two ever so often, and we could enjoy the sweet girl God made her to be just briefly.
Breaks my heart to think of that, but we had some good times. And like I said, as long as we were willing to spend money, she was willing to find things to burn it on. And so we had to get creative.
Now… cigarettes are a great way to get a hearing with people on the streets. And when I came around my hooker girl would ALWAYS ask if I had some for her. And sometimes I did. I didn’t smoke, but I could buy some and have them for her when I found her, and she would be so thrilled to bump into me if I did. But cigarettes are not cheap, and some people really have a hard time bringing themselves to spend money on them. And I get it. After spending $25 in one month on cigarettes I didn’t even want, I began rethinking it.
But then one day I was walking into the Walgreens pharmacy and saw an ashtray outside the door and a bum picking through it for cigarette butts. And it dawned on me that our girl would do that too, and those are free for the taking. So I got a baggie and kept my eyes open for them. And sure enough, when I gave her the baggie… well yes it was a let down, but sure… she wanted them anyway! And so this became the norm – except on special occasions (like Christmas and birthdays when a fresh pack of smokes really showed the love!).
But then one evening Mrs. Agent X and I were hosting our girl for dinner, and afterward she wanted a smoke, but didn’t have any. And she pleaded with us to get her a pack of smokes. But just then Mrs. Agent X recalled how a lot of the nurses she worked with at this one medical office smoked, and how there was a big ashtray just outside the office door. It was late in the evening, but just talking about it made us excited. It’s not like Walgreens where a bum is likely to wander up and poke through; it was all nurses who would NEVER take a used butt and smoke it! And this meant there would be some good ones in there!
We got so excited talking about it that we all piled in the car and raced down to the medical complex. Sure enough there was a plethora of good discarded butts. And since this medical office had so many, it occurred to us that other medical offices might too. And so we were off on a scavenger hunt for cigarette butts!
And we had us a time!
I can’t make this tuff up, folx! I just cant. We were running around town with our cheap, $5 hooker, chasing leads on free cigarette butts for her and all her friends at the crack house. And by that time we were having so much fun! Who would ever have dreamed???
Seriously, this is good fodder for that novel you wanted to write, and I am giving you my pearls!
But here is my point:
This serendipity came courtesy of the Holy Spirit. The blessing just came almost out of thin air! But then we got all caught up in it, in the kindness of it, and had a good time making memories that will last a lifetime.
It was free. It was creative. It was LOVE. It was unbelievable.
Ever throw a surprise party for someone? Ever get “into it” – all the shopping, the preparations and all? It’s work, yeah, but when you get into the happy zone with it, it just gets a life of its own and gives pep to your step!
Ever do that?
That is the gift of GIVING!
But here is my point within my point:
You won’t ever know this gift from studying When Helping Hurts or from Seeking Shalom with The Lupton Center. For these guys, such serendipity is either not real, like unicorns, or is damaging to those who experience it. But I beg to differ.
I was going through the drive thru for lunch today, and when I reached the window, the girl told me that the car ahead of me paid for my lunch! Ha! And the gift was a surprise! A joy to behold! And I thought about it a minute and decided to pass it on, to pay it forward – or actually to the car behind me! And I could see on the cashier’s face what the gift all this giving was to her and the staff working around her. They became excited at the prospect that they might build a chain of kindness doing this, and they wondered aloud how long they might keep it going!
The world could use MORE of this, not less.
Think about it.