I stepped off the bus at the corner of Dundas and Richmond. A crowd of people pressed close as commuters scurried to catch their transfer, I was no exception.
The air was cold. The kind of cold that makes you imagine there are tiny icicles in your nose. The thermometer read -24 Celsius. I shrugged my shoulders up to my ears and buried my nose into the neck of my coat. My whole body was trying to turn in on itself to find warmth.
My ear buds were planted deep in my ears and my worship music was cranked. Between trying to escape the cold, staying on schedule and the ear splitting music pulsing I didn’t see her. In fact, I almost stepped on her.
She was huddled against the exterior wall of the Tim Horton’s coffee shop. From her vantage point she had a view of legs bedecked in winter gear; warm boots, leg warmers. From where she sat she could watch the revolving door as person after person shelled out the $1.60 for their morning caffeine fix. From where she sat she could see gloved hands wrapped around paper cups of warmth.
My first instinct was to look away, to ignore her. I really had places to be, and I didn’t want to be late. I didn’t want to notice the way she was dressed for an autumn day rather than a bitter cold Canadian winter, or the way her hands were red and raw and chapped from the wind. I wanted to bury my nose deeper in my coat and do anything but open my eyes and really see her.
I started to walk away from her and as I waited for the light to turn green so I could cross the street, All Sons and Daughters began their haunting melody in my ear:
“All the poor and powerless, all the lost and lonely… will come confess and know that you are holy…”
As that red light changed to green I heard a whisper in my soul, the gentlest of nudges that had me pausing my music and turning back.
I dropped to a knee on the concrete sidewalk, the snow making a crunching sound as I leaned in close. I looked her right in the eye and asked her, her name. “Maggie”* she said as her eyes met mine, “my name is Maggie.” I asked her how she was doing, if there was anything she needed. “Money for a warm drink?” was her whispered reply. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a $2 coin, dropped it in her hand and wrapped her fingers around it.
I warned her about the cold weather alert and she assured me she had some place warm to sleep for the night. I sat with her for a minute in silence, my hand still holding hers, my heart thump – thumping in my chest. I didn’t want to let go because really, $2? That’s it???
We said our goodbyes, I reminded her of a city agency that will transport her to shelter 24/7 should she need it. My knees creaked a bit as I stood up and I whispered one last farewell, turned and went to find my bus.
Deep in my chest I felt the groaning in my spirit, those un-uttered words that rise like a lament. The tears left cold tracks on my cheeks. I felt so helpless, so powerless against such brokenness and I couldn’t help but wonder how my $2 could possibly make a difference.
I put my earbuds back in
“And we will sing out – Hallelujah. And we will cry out – Hallelujah.”
With each passersby, each person scurrying to their jobs, their school, their appointments, I whispered hallelujah and in my heart I heard Jesus whisper the same.
“Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.”
As my lament came to an end and the groaning quieted, I heard Him say.“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciple…” John 13:35
I met Jesus that morning, I met Him in the eyes of Maggie. I felt Him in her touch. We broke bread over a cup of coffee and I realized that…
… Love can look a whole like $2.
*Names have been changed