We pulled up to a left red arrow. I saw her out of the corner of my eye. The sun was bright and hot as she entered my view of sight; a thin, dark, tired figure holding a bag and a sign. I’m not sure what I saw first, the belly or the words, but when I read “Pregnant and Homeless”, I couldn’t hold back my groaning. My friend driving turned and rolled down the window.
We asked the girl her name at the same time the small, blue, flashing sirens came shooting toward us through the red light.
“Andréa,” she said, voice low, quiet, soft and scared. Her eyes were deep, dark pools of murky water, full of memories, yet void of hope. Her breasts were low, carrying the marks of motherhood. Her arms, too thin and long. Her belly swollen with life. Her ebony skin aged from sun, but not years.
“So young”, I thought.
An aura of ache and longing surrounded her and I thought back to Nigeria. I thought back to my morning in the brothels; to the eyes of the girls who had just arrived and the ones who called the hotel “home”. I looked at Andréa and saw there was no difference in the need.
We shared our names and tried to ignore the annoyed man in blue behind our new acquaintance. He wanted her off the curb. He wanted her away from our car. I wanted her in my backseat, on the way to my home, with food in her belly, truth in her ears, and love in her heart.
My friend handed her a little money and said, “We want you to know you are valued. We value you and your baby. We love you and Jesus loves you. He values you both.”
The officer sat poised on his motorbike and continued to shoo her away from us. My blood boiled. But we all obeyed.
Before she walked away I grabbed the pink compact Bible I had in my glove box and handed it to her through the driverside window. I looked her in the eyes and repeated all my friend had said, “Andréa. You’re treasured and we will be praying heavily for you.” I normally would never give a Bible to a perfect stranger without first holding a conversation; an explanation of what I was sharing and why, at the very least. But I was desperate. My passion for restoration screamed in my head telling me she needed to know more. She needed to know Love.
She gently took the Bible from my hands, thanked us for the gifts, and followed the officer’s order to the other side of the road, far away from us. The officer drove away and our left arrow turned green.
My skin flushed red in anger, and I prayed. I prayed she would believe what we said. I prayed she would find refuge somewhere safe. I prayed she would find truth in the Words I gave her. I prayed I had highlighted verses and written notes in that pink scripture book; notes she could decipher and apply to her own life. I prayed she would find Jesus.
Could she have been lying for money? Sure. Could the officer have known something we didn’t? Maybe. But you didn’t see the eyes I did. You didn’t see the scars on her chest or the excruciating story playing just behind her lashes.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently that we are not careful enough with our time or our words. We may never really know a person’s full truth; what they’ve been through, what they’ve witnessed, what was taken from them, or what was done to them. Yet we make assumptions and accusations. We spit judgement and hateful rhetoric out of our mouths before we learn a person’s name. And we waste precious time placing human beings into categories based on their appearance, belief, ethnicity, career, or gender instead of reaching out and offering a hand through the grace of Jesus Christ; of which we are ALL unworthy.
Andréa keeps me up at night. For months she’s haunted me. Those five minutes with Andréa were not enough.
But they were all we were allowed.
……Dare I say we be more careful with our minutes?