Getting Outside of Yourself
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:13,14
I found myself standing there, looking at a sea of faces. Not even one more person could have fit into that packed out room that day. Trying to keep my hands from shaking, I could hear my heart pounding as I searched for the most appropriate words to say. I had arrived not even ten minutes before my name was called. Although no one told me ahead of time, I was the first speaker in the line-up for Maude Veal’s funeral. I knew they all had to be thinking, “Who is this dorky little white girl?” I mustered up enough courage to share a few words about the impact Maude had on my life, and how honored I was to be a part of hers, then I took my seat. I had no idea my role had been so valuable to her. I had only known her for five years.
It all began in the summer of 2003. I was on an inner-city outreach with a group from Healing Place Church. We had a big flat-bed trailor loaded with food and drinks, and we were going block to block passing it out to anyone who was interested. I admired the humility of the people who, with much gratitude, accepted the food that we brought. It is there that I met LaQuisha. She was a seven-year-old little girl who is mentally challenged, and had the most amazing smile in the whole world. We pulled up to a street where I saw what must have been twenty or thirty kids playing outside. Everyone of them attacked me with hugs. That is when I knew I was definitely coming back. LaQuisha just stood there at a distance, bashfully smiling. I instantly fell in love with her.
I found out her birthday was coming up the following week, so I rounded up some friends, bought some presents and a cake, and we surprised her at her house on her birthday. It made her world, but not as much as it made mine. I’ll never forget the adorable sight of her applying her brand new eye shadow onto her lips. She didn’t have the whole make-up thing quite figured out yet. That day I met Maude. She was LaQuisha’s great grandmother. She was also the great grandmother of all of the twenty-two kids who were there. Every day they would be dropped off at her house, and as best as she could, she took care of them.
I began to visit them about once or twice a month. With a few friends to help me out, we would bring groceries, pizza, candy, and lot’s of hugs. Sometimes, I would call Maude and ask her to give me a grocery list. She always responded with something like, “We could use some milk, if you don’t mind.” Yet, when I would arrive, her cabinets would be bare. One time, there was nothing but a head of old lettuce in the fridge. So often, we would show up with something random like oatmeal, and she would exclaim, “Oh, God is hearing my prayers! I was just praying for a bowl of oatmeal!”
I was amazed at how much God looked after her. Her food stamps would get stolen, then we would show up with groceries. We certainly couldn’t take the credit. She was a praying woman with an attentive and providing God.
After I had known her for about a year, her health started to deteriorate. She became completely deaf, would often get dehydrated, and was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. It wasn’t until she died last year, that we found out she had HIV. Up until her last moment, she didn’t have a single day of rest. Every day she was surrounded with kids. But that is all she wanted. She loved her babies.
Honestly, it was LaQuisha and the kids who drew me out there. And if it weren’t for them, I would have never gotten the opportunity to know Maude. She was just a lady who never went far from her home. She didn’t have much, but she gave her family everything she had. I miss her, and am so honored to have been a part of her life. However, it wasn’t until I had the priveledge of speaking at her funeral that I realized the impact my friends and I had made.