Leaning against the brick wall of our hotel, the woman’s blonde hair was matted and her brown face weathered and worn.  She barely raised her weary eyes to us as we passed by and mumbled, “Can you spare any change?”  On her lap was a handwritten cardboard sign that said she had cancer.

My husband and I had just arrived for a much-needed getaway in the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego.  Downtown was a stark contrast of glistening luxury hotels and high-rise office buildings and rough, dirty transients roaming the streets with their bags of trash.  Coming from our home in Venice Beach, we were used to it.

Morning and night the woman begged for change.  At one point I turned to my husband and said, “I wonder if she lives in that spot?”  Finally I felt the urge to put some change in her hand.  What was leftovers for me amounted to survival for her.  What was less for me was more to her.

It made me reflect how often what is less for us is more to God.  So often what we see as insignificant is really significant to God.  For example, the value of one person.  Our society really values large quantities.  Flash mobs.  Super-sized drinks.  Mega-churches.  Mass appeal.   Yet, over and over God has spoken to me of the value of each  solitary person to Him.  I especially think he notices the individuals who everyone else overlooks:

When I was young and the world was mine to conquer, I read a quote by Mother Teresa that has never left me.  In many ways, it has been my mission statement:

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one. So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand….The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.”

So twenty-five years later I’ve realized in the end my whole life has added up to a group of “ones”.  One elderly neighbor on oxygen who needs us to walk her dog.  One frazzled mother of four who needs me to take her daughter for the night.  One student who is little different because of his disabilities who needs a friend.  From the outside it all seems insignificant.  But each part creates a “body of work” that all adds up to… something significant.  Pieces of a puzzle.  Threads in a tapestry.widows mite coins

There’s the story of the widow who Jesus watched put her last two mites in the offering.  The mites were the smallest Roman coin worth a fraction of a penny.  Yet of her offering Jesus commented, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (Mark12:43-44).  The widow seemed to understand what everyone else had missed:   that quality was more than quantity. That less was more to God. It all adds up.

Author: Tamra Mariott

4 Comments
  1. Tamra,
    Thank you for what you’ve written so well. Impressive.For three days in 1953 in Harrisburg, PA I begged on the street for money for food. I’d go in to restaurants, sit at a table were the dishes hadn’t been cleared and eat the food still on the plates as fast as I could. I’d hurry before someone cleared the dishes.

    Now I befriend people living on the fringe or still on the street. I get to know them. Sometimes we become friends. I can help them. They help me stay grounded.There’s Front Office Phil, Ten Roll Antoine, Peridon,TS,Matt,and a host of others. They’ve even given me the name Blue Crab Bruce but that’s a long story.

    Like the rest of us they’re trying to stay alive as best they can. Like the rest of us they want to be liked. They want to be appreciated. It hurts them to have to beg for money.

    Some people don’t want to give them money wondering what they’ll do with it. That’s none of my business. They don’t want to know what I do with my money.

    The other day Shepard was happy. Many of us asked him way. He responded with a big smile. “I’ve found a safer doorway to sleep in.”

    Best wishes,
    Bruce Davis

  2. I feel fortunate and blessed to be one of the people who you have ‘lifted up’!
    God bless you!

  3. Tamra,

    Thanks for sharing your heart and reminding me that everyONE counts.

    Love you,
    T

  4. Thank you Bruce for sharing your personal stories of your experiences both as a homeless person and befriending those on the fringe of society. It really puts a face on homelessness! Where I live in Venice, I am surrounded by the homeless and over the years I’ve learned they all have names, they all have stories and they all are somebody’s son, brother, sister or dad. Every one matters.

    I also really appreciate the encouraging comments of Nancy and Terry!Thank you,
    Tamra

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