T WAS GETTING LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on Christmas
Eve. I had the day off from my regular nursing duties in First Aid
at the Houston Space Center, but still was in my usual big rush
to finish last-minute details before Midnight Mass. One of the things
I had to do was drop off the unclaimed lost-and-found items the
Space Center donates to my church’s thrift shop every month.
The thrift shop was closed up tight for the holidays, but I had
a key to open up the building. All I planned to do was run in, place
the clothing in the back room, and be on my way. As I unlocked the
door, I noticed several brown bags on the front steps of the building,
filled with what appeared to be groceries. I scooped them up, hardly
looking inside, and stuffed them in the shop’s old refrigerator.
Someone was always getting us mixed up with Interfaith and dropping
off food instead of clothing and household items.
my haste, I had forgotten to lock the door behind me as I entered
the shop, and when I saw an old, rusted-out Mercury pull up to the
curb in front, I felt a flicker of fear. The shop was not in the
best part of town, and all of my family’s warnings not to
“go to that place by yourself” came rushing up.
By this time, what appeared to be a rag-tag little familymother,
father, and three small childrenwere coming through the unlocked
door. They all looked rumpled, tired, and none too clean. The man
walked right up to me and asked if they might look around a bit,
as it was their youngest daughter’s birthday and they wanted to
find a gift. He went on to explain they were missionaries, on their
way from Wisconsin to Mexico at their own expense. As I listened
to this man’s story, and looked at the family, my usual cynicism
vanished, and I felt complete trust and calm.
The little girl, Maty, was six years old. She told me they were
going to stop at a roadside park and have a wonderful party on their
way to Mexico. “My Daddy says that maybe when we get to our
church in Mexico, I can have my birthday cake then.”
Needless to say, I loaded every nook and cranny of that old car
with whatever would fit. As they were leaving, I remembered the
bags I had put in the refrigerator.
“ Wait a minute,” I yelled. “Take this stuff,
too. I don’t know what all is in here, but let’s see
if there is anything you can use.” And I began emptying the
groceries onto the counter. In one bag were the usual dried beans,
canned pumpkin, and sardines. Expecting the same in the second bag,
I started pulling items out. The first can was strawberry frosting.
Then came a box of colored candles, next a bag of balloons, and
finally, a two-layer, ready-made cake.
The tears were streaming down my face. The little girl was jumping
up and down, La.ughing, and saying, “Look Mama, look Daddy!
It’s my birthday cake!” The man just smiled, and thanked
me quietly. As he walked to the door to leave with his family, he
turned and said very gently, “God bless you.”
I replied, just as gently, “He already has.”
Jan Akin, LVN, BS
Community Outreach coordinator
CHRISTUS St. John Hospital
Nassau Bay, Texas