GIFTS FOR OUR NEIGHBORS PT. 2
Wow I am so excited to share what happened during our time that we got to meet some of the people living around us. It went a lot different than what I expected, but honestly unexpected was what I expected.
I did not expect a picture perfect movie moment, I don’t really know what I expected, but I do know that a lot happened that I did not anticipate and that taught me a lot.
There were 6 of us who went out to downtown Seattle. We split up into groups of two and had equally split the money that we had. (By the way, by the end of the shopping trips, we had used over $1000, so we met our goal!!! God is so good!!)
Our goal for the day was to just meet one new person, and give them a present that they wanted. We didn’t want ourselves or anyone else to feel rushed, and because we had so much money to give, we didn’t have limits on what we could buy each person.
Before we left, we spent time praying and inviting the Holy Spirit into what we were doing. We did not want to do any of this without the Lord being in it and moving through all of it. We drove to the downtown Target, with worship music playing all the way down. We parked and split up from there.
This is where the nerves started to kick in for me. What if we didn’t see anyone? What if they didn’t want to talk to us or couldn’t understand us? Every stereotype, fear, anxiety, and lie was flooding my head. Boy, I am so thankful that I had Stanzi as my partner. She instantly pulled me to the side when I started to verbally express the things filling my mind. She brought me back to reality. She told me that I had a choice to dive into the beautiful uncomfortability and realness of the situation, or I could choose to move on. There was no judgment in either option, but there was a choice to be made.
So we chose to dive in.
We saw a man standing to the side of the sidewalk, with his possessions sitting close by him. I think we both felt the scary but firm pull to approach him. We introduced ourselves, and he told us that his name was Rodney. We asked how he was, how his day was going. We wanted to establish relationship before diving into the gift giving. Eventually we told him that we were out that day hoping that we could give some Christmas presents out to people. We asked if he would let us buy him a Christmas present, and what he might want. He seemed a bit critical of the whole thing at first. Asking why we would do this. Why him? Why us? We went back to our hearts behind this. We purely just wanted to get to know some of our neighbors, and do one of our favorite things - gift giving. He said that he would love to have a present, as he had never had one because of the amount of siblings that he grew up with.
We started walking to the downtown Target, because he said that he wanted a new set of clothes. Rodney told us so much about his life - where he grew up, his family, his work experience, his faith.
When we got to Target, we headed straight for the clothes section, but not before a quick stop to pick up a banana and water bottle on the way. We reassured him that he could have whatever he wanted. So he picked out two pairs of pants, two button ups, two hats, two pairs of shoes, a winter coat, a pack of underwear, socks, long johns, an undershirt, a rolling duffel bag, a thermos, a mango, grapes, and almond milk.
It felt so much more freeing to be able to give unconditionally to one person, rather than have limited spending for multiple people.
But there were some things that I did not expect along the way that brought this experience back to reality.
It was anything that Rodney did, or that we did. But rather, it was the body language from the people all around it. The way that people walked away when we walked into the aisle. The attentive watch that employees had on us. The looks received as we passed by. The woman who was checking us out at the counter pulled Stanzi aside on our way out, and told her that we should take the receipt in case he tried to return it all.
I instantly felt anger and hurt about that statement. When giving Christmas presents, we don’t intentionally keep the receipt so that people can’t return it. Forcing them to keep the present, instead of being able to return or exchange it if it didn’t fit, broke, or they ended up not liking it. So why would we do any different? And if he did go back the next day and return everything for money, then that is his choice. These are now his possessions. He can do whatever he wants with them. There have been many times that I have returned something for a gift card or cash because I would rather have something else, or just need the money in that season. So if money or a gift card would be more helpful for him, then he is more than welcome to return what he got him.
We are not called to give conditionally. We are not called to love conditionally.
So we had no intention of doing that with Rodney.
We walked to the door with him, packed his stuff in a way that he could easily carry them, gave him a hug, and then he asked us to take a picture with him.
Then that’s when the other part of reality hit. He was walking through those doors, and we wouldn’t be able to continue a relationship with him. We didn’t know what would happen from there on out. We didn’t know if now maybe his stuff would be stolen. We didn’t know anything and couldn’t continue that relationship.
It was unsettling, for lack of a better word. I didn’t expect it to be a magical movie moment. But I wasn’t expecting that feeling as we said goodbye.
The two other groups were able to do the same thing for two more people.
All in all we spent over $1,000 on those three people that we met, and I wouldn’t have wanted it another way. It wasn’t rushed. It wasn’t conditional or limited. It was pure love and gift giving.