They walked along the road. Five or six people including children, all poorly dressed.
It happened yesterday. I had gone to another town to a pharmacy and was on my way back. This road is a shortcut through a low-income neighborhood.
It was odd to see a family like that all walking in a group. This area, like everywhere else, usually feels deserted, residents staying safely at home.
I noticed an elderly man in the center of the group pushing a bicycle. He had two boxes resting on the seat, the used kind you get at the back of the grocery store when you’re moving.
Neither box appeared full, one resting inside the other. That also struck me as odd.
Several feet behind them, came another group. Just a few people with the same two boxes.
As I followed the road around the curve, a larger group came into view. Maybe twenty. It looked like a protest as they lined the opposite side of the road, except no one shouted for me to honk in support of their cause. In fact, they didn’t seem to have a cause. There were no signs.
As I kept driving, I studied the last man in that line who turned away from me, his head down. For some reason, I suddenly realized he was waiting. This was a line leading to somewhere I could not see.
The weather was bad, and it still didn’t make sense. Why were these people out here?
I reached a stoplight a few yards further down. I sat there, studying a final man headed away from the large group. He also had two boxes, one sunk down into the other.
Suddenly it hit me.
I looked back and realized that the man at the end of the line who’d captured my attention was standing there in bad weather for food. Probably the first time in his life. He'd turned away from my curious gaze, ashamed. Then I felt ashamed.
I wonder how many people have actually encountered a food line. Growing up, I listened to stories of a relative who had lost her large, brick home during the Great Depression. She’d moved with her family to a small wooden frame house. My family proudly told of how she insisted on sharing. If a hungry man came to the door, she’d point him to a tree stump to wait and then take out a big plate of beans and cornbread. Perhaps the poor are first to share because they know what it is to suffer.
We’re barely months into this pandemic. What about the next two or six? Where will this nation be in a year? Could we go from storing food to waiting in lines for it, having no job or money?
The nation is suffering. We watch the daily death toll and see a five-year-old succumb in Michigan. Our loved ones stand vulnerable.
My trip yesterday to the pharmacy led down a 5-lane highway and past a mammoth car dealership. Amid long rows of shiny cars stood a huge electric sign. Obviously, it was there to advertise the dealership, but now it reads: “Pray 2 Chronicles 7:14. God Heal Our Nation.”
I eyed the words, suspecting there was more to that message. But, in fairness to the dealer, the sign is designed for a quick, easy-to-read idea.
The entire verse contains a warning. It’s spoken during the reign of Solomon, but the Hebrews don’t listen and ultimately Northern Israel falls to Assyria and Southern Israel to Babylon.
When the Hebrews find themselves deported by the thousands to Babylon, they turn back to God. It takes this terrible crisis, but they seek God and hold onto Him dearly.
Today, many of faith don’t study the Babylonian crisis in the Bible—Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Zechariah and more. Read and learn.
Here’s the verse at 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Share those words and these: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1
May we care for one another and bend on knee to God. Today and always.
Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. The Rev. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God.” You may contact her at Letters@RAMathews.com