Photo by Erin E. Photography
This is my friend Joanie. She carries the kindness of God with such depth that one encounter with her will leave you changed. When I was about 10 years old, Joanie came into my life as a friend of my mom. Their friendship is a story for another day. For the first few years of their friendship, I would see Joanie periodically, but I did not know her well. Joanie was a single mom of four children, a student at Asbury, and had a full-time job. As you can imagine, she was a busy woman. But, she was never too busy. Never too busy to love. Never to busy serve. Never too busy for an encounter with God or His people.
When I was around 12, there was a day that I stayed home from school because of strep throat. This is certainly very common, and not something that I would expect anyone to think twice about. This particular case of strep throat taught me an important lesson about caring for others. Joanie showed up at our door that day with tea and limes and honey, a Haitian remedy for a sore throat. The way that she served me that day made me feel so cared for, even though I really didn’t believe my little case of strep throat was worth stopping for.
Fast forward a few years. I am 20, and I am sitting across the breakfast table from Joanie, chatting about life. I ask her to tell me a story, and she begins to tell me about a young girl named Holly. When Joanie was around 12, living in Haiti where she grew up, a young girl named Holly captured her attention. Holly was younger than Joanie, and was always dirty with torn clothes. Over the years, Joanie and Holly began to talk, and Joanie decided to start sharing her food with Holly. Joanie didn’t have much, but she did have a mom and a dad and she felt privileged. Holly had no mom and no dad, but she did have plenty of chores and responsibilities. Joanie thought it was too much for a young girl, and she continued to give her food or spare coins whenever she could. In Joanie’s words, “It’s just what you do. You have food and you share.” Eventually, Joanie went to college and got married and moved on. She didn’t see Holly again. Many years later, Joanie had moved to America and was at a thrift store in Florida. Another woman in the store recognized Joanie and asked if she knew her. It was Holly! It was only after they exchanged numbers and talked on the phone that Joanie realized who it was, and began to remember how she had helped her back in Haiti. Holly had found a way to the United States and to college! All these years, Holly had thought of Joanie as someone she couldn’t have made it without. Joanie was so moved by seeing Holly and hearing how her life had turned out. She couldn’t believe that her kindness to her so many years ago had such an impact! In her words, seeing Holly “reminded me of my real story. It was a teaching moment. That’s how God works, people to people.”
As I sit across the table listening to Joanie tell of this story, I can’t help but think of my own story about Joanie bringing me tea. I ask her if she remembers it. She doesn’t really. I am like Holly. Joanie’s kindness to me burns in my memory and continues to inspire me. But to Joanie, these moments are just her life. According to her, it’s just what you do.
“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” Ephesians 5:2
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.