My McDonalds Jesus

Chance encounter or meant to be?

Chance encounter or meant to be?

It was a dark, wintry night, the kind with squeaky snow under your feet and car tires. I had taken the kids to the big mall nearby for a special shopping trip. I hate shopping; but I did it for the kids. They really enjoy looking at all the cool stuff in the stores, while I grimace in thought of the price tags. After a few hours of somewhat manageable shopping we were done and ready to head home. Got in the van, rounded the bend leading out of the mall parking lot, and headed towards the main drag. I could see McDonalds golden arches in the distance. “I have a great idea”, I said to myself, “I can be a really cool Mom and treat the kids to a milk shake or fries.” I knew I had enough money in my wallet, something I very rarely did. Seemed I had grown used to having a semi-empty wallet, with an occasional twenty or ten, most normally a few singles keeping each other company. Tonight, I knew there was a twenty in there and wanted to make the evening a special one for the kids. This was going to be a great surprise. “How about we stop at McDonalds for a shake or something?”, I asked. Both kids cheered in agreement and I headed towards those magical, glowing arches. As I approached the stop light, I could see the restaurant’s parking lot across the street, a few cars parked under the street lamps in the darkness, the wind blowing snow around on the ground. There was a man. What? Was I seeing things OK? Yes, there was a man in the darkness, out in the cold, without much of a jacket on. He was walking through the parking lot, stopping at the garbage cans, looking inside. Looking for something to eat, I wondered? He was carrying a wooden stick with a cloth bundle tied on one end; like a hobo fresh off the train tracks. I watched him from the intersection as I waited for the light to turn. With “green” on my side, I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot for the van. The kids piled out and I looked for the man. He was at the end of the restaurant parking lot, looking inside another garbage can. Something inside me said “help him”. I walked toward the man and called “hello”, “are you hungry?” “I’d like to get you something to eat.” “Would that be OK?” “Come with us.” The man looked at me and walked towards me and the kids. I asked him again if he’d like something to eat and he said “yes”. I led the way inside the McDonalds and waited my turn for the counter. The man hung back by the doorway. I asked him what he’d like? “Cheeseburger and fries would be just fine, thank you”. I got the kids their milkshakes, along with a few cheeseburgers and fries. I gave him the bag and looked at him in the indoor light. He was fairly young, slight build, maybe around 30 years old, light brown hair, scared, but sincere eyes and a bruised and scratched face. He told me that some kids had beaten him up for fun and took his bag of stuff. Now, he said, he had to carry his belongings on the bundle tied to the stick. He had made the contraption himself and was very proud of it. I asked him if he had a warm place to stay and he said he would figure something out; not to worry. Another person gave the man a hot coffee. I wished the man a good night and asked him if he had enough to eat. He said he was “good” and “thank you for the meal”. He walked out of the restaurant back into the darkness and cold. Then he was gone. We walked to the van and I couldn’t see him anywhere. Where the heck did he go? Even today, I still remember his face. The cut on his nose and cheek. Dried blood and a bruised lip. My God, what do we do to each other? Seemed to me I had just looked upon the face of Jesus. I had the overwhelming feeling that this chance encounter was something special. A life experience that will stay with me forever. Whatsoever you do, to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me…..

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“Penny” or Angel?

"My penny angel"

“My penny angel”

I’ve always had a fascination with finding pennies on the ground. Seem to find them at very coincidental times of my life. Heading on a trip and afraid to fly….found a penny at the airline ticket counter. Leaving the hospital after my late husband passed away….found a penny near the car in the parking ramp. Struggling with family issues and deep in thought…found a penny on the sidewalk walking into the store. It seems to happen at the strangest, but most opportune, times. I equate finding pennies on the ground with an angel grabbing my arm and saying “hey, I’ve got a message for you! Listen.” Pennies placed in my life path always get my attention.

The most profound experience I recall with “angel pennies” was the day of my hip surgery. I was fairly anxious, but so ready for the procedure. I wanted the procedure done and over so the pain would go away. I’d never had surgery before in my life. That morning, as I walked towards the hospital with my husband, I found a penny on the sidewalk right in my footsteps. Somehow it didn’t surprise me. I took it as a sign that my angels were sending another message. Everything would be OK. Once inside the surgical registration area, I met with various nurses, residents and my doctor in preparation for the procedure. Laying in the bed, waiting my turn to be launched down the hallway to OR, I pulled the blanket tighter, said silent prayers and tried to remain calm. A patient to my right, behind the privacy curtain, was highly agitated and nervously chattering away to the nurse. I couldn’t see her, but her nervousness was eating away at my composure and the anxiety inside me was starting to build. When will my bed get the green light to “go”? To my left, the post-op recovery area starts to fill up with noises of returning patients. I hear an elderly woman moaning and crying. My nerves start to elevate along with the increasing strength of her cries. “Please, dear God, get me the heck out of here”, I silently say to myself.

In the distance, walking towards me I see a woman in surgical garb. She is wearing a bright red sweater. My Grandmother’s favorite color. My favorite color. When I was a little girl, she knit me a bright red sweater. I still have it. Stored in a box in my closet. No longer able to wear, due to size, but still keeps me warm when I see it and reflect on memories of Grandma. She was the best. Had such a beautiful and mischievous smile. She’d always have something funny to say or make a face that would get me smiling. She loved african violets too. So do I. Miss her very much and wish she were still here to keep me warm and smiling.

The nurse walks up to my bed with a big smile. She says “hello” and informs me that she will be with me during the entire surgery and not to be afraid. I tell her I like her sweater and ask her name. She replies, “Penny”. Unbelievable. A huge grin covers my face and tears begin to well up in my eyes. A comforting, warm calm covers my body and I relax. I’m in great hands. She rolls my bed down the hallway to the operating room. The surgical team helps shift me over to the operating table, lay my arms out to each side, my thoughts turn to Jesus on the cross, I close my eyes. “Dear Jesus, help me”.

“You’re OK.” “You’re in the recovery room.”
I made it. Holy crap, I’m OK. I’m alive. I’m waking up. It’s all over. Thank you, God. Thank you, Grandma.

"Grandma's red sweater"

“Grandma’s red sweater”