Last Friday, I spent an afternoon sitting on a bench in the Walmart Tire and Lube. This is not the place I would choose to spend two hours, not on any day, but especially not on this day.
I’ll start from the beginning.
Three weeks ago I made some new friends. They’re newlyweds, but with a twist: everything they own together is crammed into one green Buick Park Avenue. They don’t want it this way, and so they’ve applied for subsidy housing and been approved. This is good, except for one tiny little detail: my friends must provide two more pieces of paperwork, a birth certificate and social security card, which happen to be tucked away in a relative’s house in Hulbert, Okla. This complicated story came down to a car battery. They needed that old Park Avenue engine to turn over so they could fetch this piece of paperwork and that wasn’t happening until Walmart replaced the bad battery they sold them back in March. What I thought was going to be a quick trip to AutoZone turned into an entire morning of waiting for battery checks at various places, which is how we found ourselves sitting in the Tire and Lube while the good folks at Walmart took an inordinately long time (two hours) to check the battery.
I’m an agenda kind of gal, but that day I figuratively crumpled my to-do list and decided to make the best of our time in Tire and Lube. My friends were understandably nervous about the day slipping away, so they paced while I chatted with everyone around me. I rarely make time to do this sort of thing, since most of the time I have NOT torn up the agenda and to-do list. But this day was full of the unexpected, which I am learning is perhaps not such a bad thing after all.
The lady sitting next to me was sighing heavily, so I asked her how long she had been waiting. That was all it took. In the most beautiful African accent, she began to tell me that this was the third (or maybe fourth) time she had brought her car in that week to have the same problem checked, and she was afraid of being late for work. I lamented with her about the slow service, and in the course of our conversation I asked her where she was born. “Ghana.” She said. Since I didn’t want to frighten her with my excitement, I said, “Could you repeat that?” She smiled widely and repeated it. “Ghana.” I leaned in closer to her and said, “I sort of know some people from Ghana.” This is true. Sort of. I know Peter, and I have photos and stories of 10 Ghanaian children who are living in an orphanage and waiting for homes. Those faces have weaved their way into my heart and given me a connection to these children I haven’t met. I told her about them, and she smiled that wide smile again.
“I take care of some orphans in Ghana,” she said. “Five children. The father is gone and their house burned. Now the momma can’t take care of them and the other relatives have their own children. They called me. Someone has to pay for their school uniforms, school fees, food, clothes, medicine. So that’s why I work overtime. To take care of the children.”
So there we were, Rosemary and me. In the Tire and Lube. At Walmart. Where I had definitely NOT planned to be that day. But God had a different agenda for my day, and the reason was clear: I needed to be reminded of a couple of things.
It had been a busy week. I’m driving between two passions these days: Mia magazine and Dillon International. On some days I work at editing the magazine and everything that goes along with it. Other days I do church relations work for Dillon, which means I try to figure out ways to connect churches with doing orphan care. And on just about every day of that week I felt like I was doing neither well. By the end of the week – that morning to be exact – I had begun to question why I had stepped out to add anything else to my plate. Maybe, I thought, I’m in over my head.
Then Rosemary said this: “When I was working hard to buy a bigger and better house – like you do in this country – everything in my life seemed to go wrong. I got laid off my job, couldn’t find another one, got behind on payments. Then they called me from Ghana and asked me to take care of these children. I said I would. No matter what. When I committed to that, I found another job and had money again. But it wasn’t for me. It was for them. I discovered what real treasure is. It’s not in the things down here. It’s in those children. They matter to God, and so he makes a way for me.”
In an instant I remembered what I already knew: you can spend yourself on treasure here, or you can spend yourself on treasure there. But you can’t spend yourself on both. I want to choose treasure where thieves can’t break in and steal, and where moth and rust don’t destroy. I want my heart to be with the treasure that lasts and to spend myself for it, knowing that God will make a way. Treasures here pale in comparison. I looked at my friends – who were still pacing. I looked at Rosemary and then thought about the faces of the children in Ghana and all the places where orphans reside (that’s everywhere). I thought about my husband, my own children, the grandparents, and everyone in my life who is worth pouring myself out for.