My son entered the house with a bewildered look on his face. «Eh… I’ll need some help.” I followed him out and he pointed to the road next to our house. There was a bunch of plants spread all over the sidewalk. We walked over to see and realized that there was a shopping cart parked in our yard.
At this point we went back into the house to get help. My husband came out and checked out the cart, only to find out that in between the plants there was a bag filled with medication. He quickly withdrew and realized that he was being observed by a tiny, fragile woman who had been roaming through our trash.
The needs of a stranger
We rarely see this in Norway. Most people get help from the welfare system, but some mentally ill people struggle to make use of the treatment offered.
She made her way over to my husband and talked slowly and with much effort.
“I’ll clean up my mess. I just… you know… I have all these plants… and I don’t even know where I got them. I’m high… You’ve probably noticed.”
He had noticed. Thomas talked quietly with her before walking away, allowing her to clean up the mess and regain her dignity. He had called the police, knowing that they would help her get the psychiatric help that she needed.
As she finished up, she came over to talk to Thomas. “I don’t know how this all happened. I was walking downtown with my shopping cart when this guy pushed me over and I fell. A drug addict saw it and wanted to encourage me, so he gave me a flower.”
She paused and looked at Thomas. “Next thing I’m collecting plants from all over. Look at all these plants! I don’t even know why I got them!”
That’s about when the police came. They treated her with gentleness and respect, allowing her to get her stuff together. “I don’t know where I got these plants” she said, shaking her head. “Oh, but we do” they said while carefully helping her. “We just came from one of the neighbors. Turns out that you nicked those plants from their garden.”
Returning to grace
As they helped her into the car and drove off to take her to treatment, my heart went out to her. She was so confused, not understanding why she would pick up all these plants.
It was easy for us to see, though. In her time of need someone had offered her compassion… and a flower. Was it so hard to understand why she wanted to recreate that moment? It made perfect sense that she had returned to the safe comfort of understanding, grace and togetherness that those plants represented.
That very same day I had come home from a hard day at work, feeling sick and exhausted, only to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers hanging on my door. Inside was a card, saying “I would walk over Legos for you.” Greater love has no-one, right?
In a flash, the exhaustion no longer represented a threat to me, but rather, an invitation into rest and peace. I felt loved, embraced and acknowledged.
Just as she did. When she got the flower from an addict with a big heart.
We are surrounded by people. Real people with real hearts. Confused people. Lonely ones. People who have fallen over. Who need a flower. Some encouragement. Real love. For real people.
I’ve told you before the story of my parents who talked to a young girl covered in tattoos and piercings, which they never even saw because they were too busy focusing on what she was saying.
I want that to be me.
I want to be the one who helps the fallen. The downtrodden. The ostracized.
Who goes beyond what lies in plain sight and sees with the eyes of a Father.
I want to fight this fear of getting my hands dirty. Righteousness sometimes looks like stained clothes or dirt under my nails. It looks like striking up a conversation with a mentally ill, drunk woman who’s roaming through the trash. It’s acknowledging that she has something to teach me. It’s helping her recreate that moment of gentle compassion and loving comfort that she so desperately longs for.
As I do, I realize that I’ve been blessed by the person who just went through my trash and made a mess of my yard. May peace be with her.
How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy!
For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you.
Matthew 5:7, TPT