So I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time. I intended to… just like I have intended to use Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Bookbub, Facebook ads, Amazon Ads and a few others authors swear by. But I have very limited time, and usually, all my best writer-y intentions go out the window when teaching a little girl to tie her shoes is my most important task for the day. I have been sending out a monthly newsletter, and I’m super proud of myself for that. I can’t brag that I have the best (or any) advertising for my books, but every month, people around the world get a real-life, encouraging, and hopefully inspiring email from me. That’s where a lot of my potential “blog posts “have gone. My newsletters are personal, and I guess I feel more comfortable writing my personal experiences and thoughts to be read by my “reader friends” rather than an open letter for all the internet to read.
However, something happened this week. I intended to write about it in my newsletter. Knowing what to write is a huge relief just about every month. But then I felt the strong conviction that what I wanted to write needed to be shared in a blog post, and I needed to do it sooner rather than later. I feel the Lord saying that someone needs to hear the words I need to write. So I’m putting aside my long-to-do list and all of my “shoulds.” I’ll have to figure out my newsletter topic later. If you’re a subscriber, we can be surprised together by what I will write. For now, I’m sitting on the floor of a basketball gym with my laptop while my son practices, and I’m listening to the insistent whisper urging me to tell the story you need to hear.
Earlier this week, I dropped my son off at basketball practice at his school and was driving home around 4:30 in the afternoon. The elementary school had released about forty minutes prior. As I drove down the road, I noticed a group of students walking down the sidewalk. That’s pretty typical. A lengthy sidewalk extends from the elementary school, past fields, eventually leads into town. Though it’s definitely not a short walk, students often walk home this direction. However, I noticed that a small girl trailed behind the other kids. As I passed her, I saw her tiny frame and estimated that she was a kindergartener, probably around five years old.
And I saw she was crying.
After I passed, I literally said aloud, “Nope, I can’t do that.” I couldn’t go on my way and pretend I hadn’t seen her. It’s almost like I had a conversation with God right there. “I guess you want me to turn around, God, because You know I can’t unsee that.” God knew that I couldn’t ignore a child. If God asked the question of who would pass by a crying child and turn around, I’d raise my hand and say, “Me. It’s me.” I couldn’t continue home without making sure that little girl was okay. You see, I once wrote a book called A Cinderella Christmas, and its message convicts me on almost a daily basis. I try to notice those on the sidelines of my life. And if I see someone in need, I try to never walk away. Especially a child.
Of course, the doubts immediately attacked. There was no place along the road to pull off. How could I check on her? I didn’t know her. Even if I managed to stop and approach her, would she freak out that I was a stranger? Would my efforts make it worse? Would it be considered creepy to stop my car and address a child I didn’t know?
But I couldn’t walk away. I went to the next street and turned around, still doubting myself and having no idea what to do. I made another pass, wondering what to do. As I passed this time, I saw one of the older kids walking back to her, and I was so relieved. There! The other boy was going to help her. Everything would be okay, and I wouldn’t need to do anything after all. I went down the road and turned around again. Now I was worried that the kids would notice my minivan passing them multiple times and freak out!
But I told myself this would be my last pass on my way home. Unfortunately, I saw that the older boy was still a ways away from the little girl. My gaze fell to her face one last time. And I saw her tears still drawing her features in heart-wrenching sadness.
“Nope. Can’t do it.”
I went back to my previous turn around spot and swung around once again. This time, I drove back down the road with determination. I found a slightly wide section of dirt on the right, and I pulled my minivan off the road as far as I could. Without hesitation, I hopped out of my car and crossed the street.
“Is she your sister?” I asked the boy.
“Yes,” he answered.
“She is crying. Is she okay?”
“She just doesn’t want to walk anymore,” he explained. “She wants me to give her a piggyback ride, but I can’t because I have my backpack.”
I approached the little girl and spoke gently. “I saw you were sad, and I want to make sure you’re okay.”
She looked up at me. My goodness, she was adorable! Her teary dark eyes blinked up at me. Her downturned mouth curved up. She tipped her head back and looked up at me, her face transforming with wonder. It was like seeing the sun come out from behind the clouds when you’d just experienced a storm so bad you doubted its existence.
“You saw I was sad?” she asked, her little voice mixing with wonder and profound relief.
“Yes. Are you okay?”
I looked down and saw that snow boots encased her little feet. No wonder she couldn’t walk! I bent down and tried to adjust the boots, but there was nothing I could do. They weren’t going to fit her better, and there was no way I could fix them to be more comfortable.
I brainstormed with the kids, trying to figure out what to do. I found out that they lived in the subdivision at the end of the road. Looking down the long sidewalk still ahead, I knew it was way too far away. The little girl’s feet must be hurting so bad. I knew she was telling the complete truth when she said she couldn’t walk anymore. It wasn’t practical for the boy to give her a piggyback ride for that distance either. I asked if they knew their mom’s phone number and I could give her a call. But they didn’t.
I felt that the only option was to give them a ride. But in this day and age, I had no idea if that would be considered okay and if they would be comfortable with that.
“I’m a mom, and I help out at the school,” I began.
“I know you,” the boy said proudly. “You’re Levi’s mom!”
Such relief. “Yes, I am!” I finally looked at him enough to recognized him as being in my son’s fifth grade class. I’m a regular volunteer in the classroom and the school. I’m probably a familiar face to many students. “So you know me. Do you think it would be okay with your mom if I give you a ride home? I’m not sure how else to help your sister. I don’t think she can walk anymore.”
The boy eagerly agreed. “Oh, we’ve gotten rides before.”
Right then, the few other kids who were ahead finally came running back to see what was going on. Turns out, one of them was another sister. And I recognized her immediately.
“I know you!” she said with a toothless grin. “You’re Brielle’s mom!”
I also volunteer frequently in my daughter’s class as well, and this little girl was in that class too!
They were all eager and comfortable with me giving them a ride home. So I loaded them carefully in my minivan, made sure all seatbelts were properly clicked, and we set off.
The boy directed me to his house, and they soon happily hopped out. I talked to the mom very briefly, explaining that I saw her daughter crying because she couldn’t walk anymore, and since the kids knew me from school, I gave them a ride home. She didn’t say much, but I did get an enthusiastic hug from one of the little girls.
I finally made it home myself, but I couldn’t get the kids off my mind. I’d helped today, but what about tomorrow? Did the little girl even have shoes to walk? What if the snow boots were all she had? I sent a message to one of my teacher friends, explained the situation, and asked her if she could check to make sure the girl had shoes. Thankfully, she assured me she’d take care of it.
I’m not sure how long the little girl would have had to try to walk home if I hadn’t come along. I’m so glad I didn’t look away and mind my own business. I’m glad I was able to help. But that little girl gave me something of greater value in return.
I will forever remember the look on her face when I said, “I saw you were sad, and I want to make sure you’re okay.” She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t know how I saw her. To her, it probably seemed like I had just appeared. But in that moment, she truly felt seen. Someone saw and cared. Someone cared that she was sad and wanted to help, and that was wondrous. I think that she would have followed me anywhere simply because I had seen her, recognized she was sad, and cared enough to ask her about it.
Just a few days before, I had read the Biblical passage in John when Jesus calls Nathanael. Jesus told Nathanael, “Before Phillip talked to you, I saw you under the fig tree.” (John 1:48) I think we often gloss over that, thinking of it as the equivalent of, “Hey, I saw you standing over there on the street corner.” But I don’t think that was it. It had to be more than that. Others hadn’t seen Nathanael, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a significant thing to say. Something about Nathanael and the fig tree couldn’t have been known by others. Maybe Nathanael had been praying, confessing the secrets of his heart to the Lord. Maybe he’d been where no one else could have possibly seen him. Whatever it was, what Jesus told Nathanael was personal to him. It was significant and personal enough that it changed Nathanael’s life. Because of that one phrase, Nathanael followed Jesus, dedicating his life and his work in service to someone he’d just met.
Nathanael felt seen.
What I did for that little girl is what the Lord does for us. He sees us—every little insignificant detail, thought and feeling. All of the stuff we think no one else can possibly know? He sees that too. He knows when we are sad and when we can’t walk anymore. And He cares.
The message came to me at the perfect time. I’ve been wrestling with a few things, often feeling that my prayers were meeting silence. Frustration was my companion on multiple fronts. And I heard the message: Even though it seems like I’m stuck on a very long road and my feet can’t take another step, God sees me. He sees that I’m sad. He sees all the reasons and all the frustrations. And He cares.
He cares enough to arrange things for me and for you exactly as He did for that little girl. Even before her feet started hurting, he arranged for my son to have a 4:30 practice. He arranged for me to be the one to drive down that road at exactly the right time. He caused me to look and recognize sadness on a little girl’s face while traveling at 35 mph. He created me with a love of children, and He sent me knowing I would notice and not ignore. He gave me the idea for a book that I wrote several years ago—a book that haunts me enough that I turned around even though it would have been easier to mind my own business. He gave me the courage to be a rescuer even though I didn’t know how it would be perceived by others. He sent me to her at exactly that moment, knowing that I would meet her need—arranging things even before the need existed.
Know that He’s working in that same intricate detail for your needs.
Whereas I spoke to the girl within the confines of my limitations, the One speaking to you is limitless. He has provided the answers to your prayers even before you knew to pray. Just because you haven’t seen them yet does not mean they aren’t there. When you are exactly at the right spot in the road, your answer will appear even when you never saw it coming.
This is the message He wants you to hear:
“I see that you’re sad, and I’m going to make sure you’re okay.”
May we look up at Him with the same wonder and relief of a five-year old little girl. And may we, in turn, notice those around us, not walk away, and give that same gift of making someone else truly feel seen.