mailbox manna

Dear Anonymous,

My guess is that you won’t ever read this, but maybe writing this has more to do with me than you anyway.

When I walked down the stairs to my front door last week to check my mail, the highest hopes I entertained were that perhaps the Newsweek had arrived a day early, or maybe a complimentary shipment of Storyhouse coffee would be balancing on the rack beneath our mailbox. As I reached inside our box, I was disappointed to find it empty. Surprised that there would be NOTHING in the mail, I put my hand back in for one more swish (something I am usually hesitant to do because of the little family of spiders who live in the beautiful palms above the box) and my fingers brushed the edge of a sturdy envelope. As I pulled it out I realized that, strangely, it was not sealed. It was addressed to us with our address written plainly, however it had not been mailed. No return name or address was written, and the envelope was not even sealed. A bit surprised I reached inside (again, thinking briefly about the spiders) and I pulled out three folded, colorful gift card holders.

As I unfolded the first, I was surprised to see Trader Joes printed on the card. I didn’t even know they DID gift cards. The next one, with its bold bull’s-eye, was a bit more familiar. The final card came from our good friend down the street, Ralph’s. The amounts written above the cards were generous.

Baby formula, diapers, wipes, and rice cereal would now be purchased with ease. I could look forward soon to Trader Joe’s peanut butter, frozen vegetables and brown rice. And we could once again load up on rocket fuel-less water to keep a baby fed and a breastfeeding mom hydrated.

As I walked slowly back into my house, I encountered my mom (who was visiting from Seattle) at the top of my stairs. By then the tears had already started flowing and my mom, obviously caught off guard and concerned, asked me what was wrong. “Someone gave us money for groceries…” was all I could get out before I began to sob. I went and stood in my room for a few minutes, leaving my mom and baby in the other room.

I don’t always know what the tears are for when they come. Are they tears of gratitude for the anonymous generosity of a friend? Are they tears of anger that we still, with my husband working full time at Fuller Seminary, and part time for a Jewish synagogue, can’t pay our rent and bills and put food on the table? Are they tears of shame that my mom would see how her thirty-one year old daughter is relying on help from others to have her grandbaby’s basic needs met? Or are they tears of communion with a God who has heard my cries and has sent me manna for one more day?

Though you remain anonymous, I am trying to see you in everyone who surrounds us here. In my pastor who would give us the shirt off his back if we asked for it. In my sister who has never said no to watching my baby for a few hours so I can go to class or write a paper. In our Kenwood neighbors who have done more to care for us this past year than I would have thought possible on this side of heaven. I am also trying to see you in myself. What are the things that I have that can be quietly and generously given to another who feels discouraged, isolated, or afraid.

Thank you, Anonymous.

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