Keeping a Promise

I got around to keeping my promise today. I went to a shop and traded some of the smoked fish I brought back with me for five blankets. I figured that I would start by going down into the lower town to see who might need help. While I was looking around I figured that I could give the blankets to some of the people.

On the way, a woman stopped me and asked me what I was doing with so many blankets. I told her and she asked me to wait a minute. She ran inside her house and ran back carrying three sweaters. She placed them on top of the blankets I was holding and said that she wanted to do her part.

I thanked her and continued down the street. It wasn’t thirty feet before someone else asked me where I was taking my load. He said he had some socks for me to take, which he went and got. Apparently the people living along the street were all sitting looking about their windows, because all down the street people started coming out carrying blankets and clothes.

After three more people gave me items it became clear that I couldn’t carry everything that was being brought out. I asked the next man who came out, “Would you help me carry some of these things?”

He smiled at me and said, “I’d love to, but my joints can’t take the cold, but thank you for doing this.”

The next woman said, “My balance isn’t what it used to be. I can’t walk in the deep snow in the lower town.”

The next man said, “You’re doing a good thing, and if you go again in the evening I can help, but I’ve got to open my shop right now. I do have a cart you can borrow.” I said that that would be helpful and he went into his shop and brought it out.

I continued down the street collecting items and listening to all the reasons that people couldn’t go with me: I might catch a cold; there are thieves – I’m not sure it’s safe; the road down the hill is slippery; it’s too cold; I have to take care of my kids; I have to go to work.

I have to admit that I was getting a little frustrated with the whole situation. The cart I was pushing was filled to the point of overflowing. A little old lady was walking out of her house carrying a blanket and leaning heavy on her cane, I was wondering how I could carry anymore, when I heard noise behind me.

I turned around and I saw Hector running down the street pushing a push-cart in front of him.

“Hail, Julie,” he called out as he came, “I hear you can use some help.”

I smiled, and when he stopped beside me I gave him a big hug. “How did you know?” I asked.

“Apparently your good deed made someone on this street feel a little guilty. After he gave you some items he said that he also gave you an excuse. He was feeling bad about it, so he came to talk to me.”

“What did you tell him? Is he going to help, too?”

Hector shook his head slightly. “One step at a time Julie. I told him that he should help if he felt God was calling him to. I told him that next time he should say a little prayer and then try to listen to his heart. I think the next time he has an opportunity to help that he will.”

Hector and I collected the rest of the items that people brought out and then made our way down the hill to the lower town. Once we got there the going got tougher since no one clears the snow off the roads in the lower town. We trudged our way along, but finally got stuck. We took turns, both working on one cart and then the other.

A couple of strong men came out of their shops and helped us and we soon reached the heart of the poorer part of town. We didn’t see anyone around except for two little boys who where playing catch. I decided to walk around and do a survey of the makeshift houses in the area. Hector joined me and we started to walk around.

I have to admit I was a little appalled at the structures that some of the people and families were living in. Some were nothing more than a few blankets draped over some poles. We saw that a few of them had collapsed under the weight of the snow.

I’m not sure what I expected to find when we got back to the carts. All I know is what I saw wasn’t it. About forty people were standing in line next to the carts. Some of them looked like they were freezing. One man was barefoot. There were also all smiling and talking with each other. I could see how desperate some of them were, but no one was pushing or shoving.

I looked at Hector for some guidance and all I got was a shrug of his shoulders. I hadn’t thought about how I would give away the things I had brought. I looked up and down the line of men, women and children all standing there. I decided that I should help those in the most need first.

I dug through the cart and found a pair of boots someone had given me. They weren’t the best boots in the world, but they looked sound. I also found one of the pairs of socks. I took the shoes and socks and gave them to the bare food man. He said, “God bless you.” Then he walked over and sat on a box that was against one of the buildings and put them on.

As I tried to decide whom to help next I watched the man out of the corner of my eye. He finished putting on his shoes and then walked to the end of the line. I wondered if I should just ask the first person in line what they needed, but I was looking at the stack of blankets and decided to just ask who needed a blanket. When I did many of the people in line raised their hands. I grab the stack and walked down the line handing them each a blanket. Most of the people who raised their hands and took a blanket stepped out of line and walked to the end. A couple didn’t, but no one seemed to mind. I got to the end of the line and two women still had their hands up and I only had one blanket left. I gave it to the first women and I could see the disappointment in the other woman’s eyes.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt bad that I didn’t have enough blankets. I reached out my hands to her and said, “I’m sorry.” She smiled and gave me a knowing nod that told me she understood. As I was turning around to walk back to the cart I heard a woman’s voice.

“Margaret, you need this more than I do.” I turned around and saw one of the first women that I had given a blanket to give the blanket to the last woman. I also saw a tear run down both women’s faces.

We continued to hand out our items. It was kind of unnerving how we seemed to have just the right number of each thing we gave out. It was also interesting how some people kept getting back in line, while others seemed to be satisfied and headed back to their homes. When we were done there was only one woman still waiting. Her arms were full. I looked down into the two carts and saw that they were empty.

“I’m sorry, that’s all I have. What else do you need?” I asked.

“You have already given me more that I could have asked for, but I have something for you.”

I’m sure I had a funny look on my face because the woman started to laugh. She set her load down in one of the carts. “Do you think that I am so poor that I couldn’t have anything that you might want?”

I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself. Before I could answer her, she smiled and said, “May I give you a hug?” I guess she took my lack of a response as a yes and she wrapped her arms around me. She held me tight in her arms and then she whispered in my ear. “God, bless this woman who keeps her promises just as you keep yours. Bless her for listening to your voice and doing your will. Bless her for being a servant to those who are so low in this world’s eyes that they are not even worthy to be someone else’s servant. God, keep her and lead her.”

The woman then released me and picked up her clothes and walked away. I just stood there with tears running down my face. Hector put his arm around me and gave me a squeeze and told me it was time to head home. We walked back to the upper town in silence. I returned the cart to the man you let me borrow it and Hector walked me back to the inn.

We didn’t say anything to each other; everything that had needed to be said had been said in the woman’s prayer for me. She was right, I hadn’t though she had anything that I needed, but I was so wrong. Her hug warmed me to the quick and her prayer blessed my soul.

Now I sit here writing this and wonder how she could know me so well. How she knew to wait. How she knew of my promise. But then, as I look back on today, I can see God’s hand at work, so why should it surprise me that God would lead a woman to help me when he lead me to help her?


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