“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do
and doesn’t do it, sins.”
It was an exciting day taking the train into New York City with our two cherubs and two of their cousins (our niece and nephew). The Saturday excursion was a birthday gift for our niece, and our primary destination for her (and Gabrielle) was “American Girl”! To make the trip palatable for the boys, we were also going to “Toys R Us” in Times Square.
This long-awaited day was filled with “firsts” for our niece and nephew….first double-decker train ride, first cab ride, first time to New York City at all! Their first time in “The Big Apple”!!! As our visit to The Big Apple was just for a day, we planned on taking small but delicious bites out of all NYC has to offer. With backpacks filled with water, snacks, cameras, Purell and hand wipes, we headed out from our home before dawn.
Our reservation for breakfast at American Girl was at 9:30 AM, so an early express, double-decker train arrived at our favorite train station and whisked us all off to NYC. In just over an hour, we arrived at Penn Station in NYC. Our wide-eyed niece and nephew were taking it all in as the escalator brought us up from underground to the main floor of the bustling train station under Madison Square Garden. They were just as excited for their first cab ride as they were to reach our respective gender-pleasing destinations.
Smiles, wonder and laughter filled our day. All four children were so well behaved and considerate of each other. The boys were genuinely patient while the girls lingered long at the American Girl store after breakfast. They never complained once and kept themselves content. The girls were equally accommodating as the young gentlemen chose some “boy toys” at Toys R Us. The four cherubs rode the 4-story, indoor Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us, which was a thrill for all of them. We were all enchanted as we stopped at Rockefeller Center to gaze at the ice skaters and watch as the over-sized Christmas tree was being erected. We felt as though we were looking at a perfect picture postcard.
Making our way to Penn Station for our journey home, our tummies were growling. Passing up the plethora of fun and unique restaurants in the city, we opted for a quick and simple meal at one of the food courts in the train station.
Once Jim and I had the children settled with their meals, I made a quick dash for the ladies room at Penn Station, a place I usually try to avoid having to use. As I rounded the corner to the restroom, I quietly gasped as a precious woman, who I imagine looked much older than she really was, sat on the dirty floor of Penn Station just outside of the bathroom. Though this is not an unusual sight in NYC, this particular woman caused me great pause. She was in need of a bath and some clean clothes. Her frail body evidenced her need for some food. Her desperate countenance shown her need for love.
I walked by making eye contact with her and smiling. She smiled back and nodded her head slowly. In my quiet time that morning, I had read a few chapters in James, including 4:17: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” I knew the good we ought to do. Though limited in my ability to help her in many practical ways since I was far from home, I knew we could at least buy her a meal.
I hurried back to the table and quietly spoke to Jim. Seeing me then go back to the counter to order another complete lunch, the children became curious. I told them that God gave us the blessing and responsibility of giving a seemingly homeless woman a meal, and I invited them to join me on this small divine appointment from the Lord. They jumped up with joy and helped me carry her food.
As we approached the woman, the children stood behind me and intently observed. They watched as I gently went up to her and handed her the meal. “This food is for you. You are loved by Jesus. He wants to be sure you eat today.” Her eyes brightened. She reached out to receive her lunch and said, “I was thirsty and hungry. Thank you so much.” She looked up at the children and they all exchanged smiles. We told her that God loved her and cared about her. She nodded and began drinking and eating quickly. We quietly walked back to our table. Oh how I wish we could have done more. How I wish she would give her life to Jesus and be transformed. How I wish I could have hugged her. Yet for just that moment, I knew that simple meal is what I “ought to do”.
I knew I “ought to do” it for the woman. That was obvious. But I learned later that I “ought to do” it for our niece and nephew, too. I was in jaw-dropping awe of God when their mom left us a message a few days later telling us that the thing the kids remember most from their dream-come-true day in The Big Apple was not the double-decker train rides, nor their first cab ride, not seeing the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, not even getting a doll at American Girl or a new toy at Toys R Us. That all was wonderful and fun, yes. But what did they remember most? What were they talking about most from their day in The Big Apple: Giving the homeless woman a meal. That is how God impressed their heart that day. That was God’s beautiful work.
In the midst of The Big Apple was a small, frail and lonely woman. Amidst the bright lights and glamour of Broadway, was a dark and broken creation of God making her “home” on the filthy floor of Penn Station under Madison Square Garden. A dream-come-true day for precious children left a lasting impression of God’s earthly presence on their hearts. Those four precious children were His earthly vessels of love and mercy to that woman. They were used by God. That made an impression. May they remember His goodness and His commands every moment of their lives. For His purposes and glory.
Yes, we took a very small bite out of The Big Apple a few Saturdays ago. But more importantly, we shared a bite to eat in The Big Apple with a beautiful but broken woman. Praying God’s richest blessings, salvation and provision for her every day.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...'” Matthew 25:34-35
Loretta: please be sure to leave me your contact information.