I’ve heard it 1,000 times over you never know who’s watching you, who’s falling in love with your smile, who needed to see your pearly whites that day, and it wasn’t until yesterday that it meant something more to me. You see when I moved into my community a little over a year ago, I was warned about a lot of things, one of them was a street in our community, this street was “off limits”, it was dangerous and people just didn’t travel down it, well if you know me, you know those unmarked territories are the places where I love to love, (dangerous yes I know!). The first few months I avoided this street, then I began to drive down it a few times, then one night I got pulled over on my way home from a staff meeting for looking out place, then I began to travel this street daily.
I wasn’t scared, as I travel down this street I wave at the neighbors, I smile at them, I invite the kids to join me for fun on Wednesday and most importantly I pray for them. Every time I go down the street I see the same woman sitting on her front porch, she always has a sullen look on her face and I’ve been praying for an opportunity to be able to talk to her. Well wouldn’t you know the awesome God I serve gave me that opportunity yesterday!
I was pulling some stuff out of the back of my car, and this women walks up and says, “Ma’am I don’t mean no harm, but you live here?” I shook my head and she said I have to tell you something, that beautiful smile of yours it keeps me going, I quickly recognized her as the women I have been praying for, the one I have wanted so badly to hug, to love and to talk too. She continued, “I just thought you were some lost white girl, the first time I saw you, I mean not many white folk hang out on **** street, but then you just kept coming, so I thought you must work for those white folks fixin’ up them houses.” I giggled and told her nope I live here…she smiled and said why? I told her because this is where God wants me, this is my home, my community, my heart, she smiled and asked if she could hug me. After that hug she told me she hasn’t hugged anyone, not even her kids in months.
Then she proceeded to tell me that my “white girls smile” goes a long way, and she needs them in her life. I told her I was glad that my smile could brighten her day. I was in a hurry to leave yesterday morning, but suddenly my need to leave became unimportant and the conversation I was going to have with my new friend became the most important thing in the world.
She told me that she’s lived on this street for a few years, she watched murders, drug deals, shootings and a multitude of other things happen, she has three living kids, between the ages of 5-9 (I told her I would love for them to join us for Kids Club!) and one child who was murdered a few years ago. She told me she’s broken, some days she doesn’t know how to go on. She told me she believes in God but she feels separated from him, she doesn’t know how to connect to a church, she doesn’t think she will fit in, that she feels out of place when she visits local churches because she’s not dressed up, and doesn’t have money for fancy church clothes. She didn’t know me from the next person on the street and yet because I’ve invested a few smiles in her life, not even any words, she felt like she could share her heart with me. I saw tears well in her eyes as she talked, she grabbed my hand and asked if I would pray for her, I told her yes and we stood there in front of my bright blue door on N. Luzerne Ave and prayed, I prayed for her heart, for her kids, for God to envelope her in ways only He could, I prayed for her to feel His presence and understand who He is and wants to be in her life, I thanked God for our divine appointment, I prayed for our Church on the Corner to be able to happen soon, so she would have a place to call home…and place where she would be welcome fancy clothes, or not… and when I finished she said, “Ma’am I don’t even know your name, but can I pray for you too,” I told her my name and she took my hands in her beautiful, worn hands and prayed and thanked God for my “white girl” smile, prayed that I would be blessed, asked God to hear her prayers even though she’s separated from Him, asked for forgiveness, and prayed for her block.
As she walked away, my heart broke for this beautiful and broken woman, I asked God in that moment to allow me to be intentional about seeking her out, about doing more than driving down her block and smiling for her, but acknowledging her, praying for her and with her. Inviting her to dinner and sharing scripture with her, inviting her to church with me, and being intentional about getting to know her family.
I was also reminded of this verse in 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,” (NIV). I didn’t use words to get to this woman, I used a smile and a prayer, sometimes God doesn’t need or want us to use words, He wants us to be obedient in His work for us, it might be walking a different way to work and praying for the people you pass, it might be smiling at the grumpy man next you on the bus, it might be waving at your neighbors, you never know who’s watching you and who’s heart your going to touch. I think I learned a great lesson this week, people are watching, we are a Testimony of our faith, in more than our words, but also our actions. I urge you this week to take a long hard look at how you’re representing your faith through your actions, you never know who’s watching.