Just days after Christmas 1976, the apartment mom and I lived in was destroyed in a fire. It may have been faulty wiring in the tree, may have been candles, we never found out. Within hours, our Christmas joy had been turned to ashes as we lost everything we had.
Mom was a divorced working mother. She had a good profession, nursing, but she worked private duty which means when there was work things were good...but there wasn't always work, so we were no strangers to tough times.
A day or so after our apartment was destroyed we stopped into Chick's Diner (one of those old style 50's diners, neon and all) for a bite. I was 16 at the time and I think mom and I were still kind of dazed from the disaster we'd been through. We lost everything in the fire and at that point we had an apartment sparsely furnished with second hand items from neighbors and a few vouchers from the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Mom hadn't had work in a while and the fire set her back even more. I know that she had $20 in her purse once dinner was paid for, and that was it. There was nothing else.
Anyway, it was a bitterly cold night, and as we lingered over our dinner, we watched as a homeless man outside tried to hitch a ride. He'd come into the diner every now and then in his threadbare clothes to warm himself over a hot drink for a while....then he'd return to the task of trying to get a ride to whatever destination he had in mind. Mom watched pensively.
As we got ready to leave, mom told me..."wait a minute, I'll be right back." I watched as she walked over to the homeless man, pressed her last $20 into his hand and said "Maybe this will get you a meal and a bus ticket."
He looked shocked for a moment and then began to thank her profusely. Mom came back to the table and sat again for a moment. I was stunned at what I'd seen...my mom giving away her last bit of cash to help someone else. I asked her why she did it and she answered..."We have food tonight. We have a warm and safe place to stay tonight. Tonight we have what we need, and God will take care of tomorrow. That man had nothing, not food nor shelter. Who knows...perhaps that man was Christ."
That moment on that blustery winter night was the true birthplace of faith for a 16 year old girl. It's where I saw the theory of faith put into practice. My mother taught me many lessons that night....she taught me to see Christ in my fellow man. She taught me to give to those less fortunate than myself, because in that giving we are giving to God. She taught me to trust that God will take care of my needs, even in the face of fear and uncertainty. That night faith came alive for me.
As time went on, I watched as God took care of our tomorrows, and I always remembered how my mother who had so little, gave all she had to take care of a needy stranger that cold winter's night.