Friday, May 30, 2014

Turn around and do something

It all started with a salad.
One I never got to eat.

I worked a longer than normal day yesterday and was emotionally drained after wrapping up an interview with a 13-year-old girl in foster care, wishing to be adopted.  

I sank into the driver seat of my car after "clocking out" and hit the gas trying to get to some food quickly.

I eat way too much fast food.  On this day, I decided to opt for a salad instead of a burger at Wendy's.  The thought of having to wait the 10 extra minutes to get home to eat it wasn't exciting, but neither was the idea of complaining about wobbly bits for another day.

So here I am, trucking down Lake Street when I notice three kids and a woman trying to cross this busy street with overflowing suitcases in tow and arms full of personal belongings.  They are trying to get to a bus stop, but keep dropping what appears to be all they have.

I start to ask myself questions: Are they running away from someone?  Do they have anywhere to go?  Do they need help?  Should I turn around?

I knew the answer to that last question and felt God stirring it up in my heart.

Still, I continued on my planned route into the long drive-thru line at Wendy's to get that salad.  I could see other drivers pass this family - slowing down and craning their necks around to see what was happening as more personal belongings fell out of their bags.

Someone else will stop, I thought.

It took about 10 minutes to get through the line and get the salad.  My stomach was rumbling!

My eyes are still glued to the bus stop family and at this point, I can see the teenage boy who had been carrying the largest suitcase wiping the sweat from his face.

It was hot. I looked at my car temperature and it said 87 degrees.

Turn around, Britney.  My heart started racing.

I put my salad on the floorboard and pulled into a parking space directly across from the bus stop family.  We are separated by five busy lanes of traffic.

I step out of my car and simply holler, "Do yall need help?" during a traffic lull.  "Desperately," is the response I hear from across the street.

I get back in my car, zip across the street to the closest parking space and before I can even get out of my car, this family of four is hauling everything toward me.  

Lord, give me the words to speak and calm my nerves, I pray.

I introduce myself to the family and they introduce themselves to me...sweaty, exhausted and dropping shoes and shirts from their overflowing bags.

I get the rushed story: they are homeless, but have a meeting at a Section 8 housing office about a possible place to stay.  They've been in Lake Charles for a few weeks after leaving another Louisiana city to get away from a bad situation. (I'll keep that city and their names private for their security)

I don't get many details.  The children's father is dead.  They have been staying at a temporary shelter for homeless women and their children, but had to leave after reaching the maximum number of days to stay.  They've spent the past couple of days in a hotel and on the streets with what little money they had.  They've been on a waiting list for a couple of weeks for a place to live, but didn't get a call until today.  They need a ride to the housing office.

We take off: mom in the front seat, a teenage son and daughter in the back with little sister wedged between them.

Our first stop is Little Caesar's to get a couple of pizzas and drinks.  The kids slowly eat one piece in the car, tearing it in smaller pieces.  I tell them the pizza is all theirs.  "We want to save some for later," they say.


We arrive at the housing office and after a long wait, the mother is told the only available unit is dirty.  She volunteers to clean it.  A few more minutes pass and a call comes in to the housing manager. 

A small three bedroom unit is available.

We head over there and mom goes inside to check it out as the kids and I wait in the car.  She walks out beaming.  "It's so nice.  We'll take it," she says.

The kids and I can't wait to see it with our own eyes.  I guess I don't really know what I was expecting to see when we walked inside.

This is "nice?" I thought.  There is no A/C or ceiling any room.  It's hot.  And tiny.  And a roach just ran out of a burner in the kitchen.  And the floor looks like it's rusting.  The bathtub comment. The windows are thin and I can hear music blaring from a car outside.

But the kids all say, "This is perfect!  This is such a good day!"

We unload the car and I notice that the only items being unpacked from suitcases are clothes and a couple of toiletries.  "Where are you going to sleep tonight?" I asked them.  "The floor.  It's okay, we're used to it," says the oldest girl.

I felt the tears rising to the surface and told them I needed to step out to make a phone call.  Matt had no idea what his wife was up to today.

I break down as soon as I start explaining what's transpired over the past two hours.  We agree that we can find some extra bedding from our house for them, give them our air mattress and buy them a window unit air conditioner.

I feel helpless and overwhelmed.  I know people have extra beds, food, clothes and more that they would be willing to donate if they saw this family's need, but how do I connect them?  Matt tells me to call our sweet friend, Becky, who has helped other families in need and might be able to direct me on where to find these emergency items.

The next hour was the most amazing reaffirmation of my faith.

Becky tells me she's got her two young kids with her, but she's ready to help.  She calls a man named Tom who is the main facilitator for Boulevard Baptist Church's Mission in partnership with Trinity Baptist Church.

The Mission isn't set to reopen until August...but Tom says he and his wife, Sue, will be there in 30 minutes to open it up.

I load the family back into my car and we head that way.  Becky sends out a message to a few guys in our Sunday School class who have trucks.  One of them, Scott, drops what he's doing and immediately heads to the Mission.

Let me tell you: if you live in the Lake Charles area and need to clean out your closet, kitchen and old furniture - this is the place to donate it.  It is a Mission and a ministry.

The mother and her children can hardly take in all the generosity.  They start grabbing clothes, shampoo, soap, toilet paper...even a TV!  There's one twin mattress set there for the taking and Scott loads it - knowing that at least one person will be off the floor tonight.

At some point during this "free shopping spree," Tom got a message from another Trinity member with some emergency items to donate.  Her father recently died and she was willing to give some of his belongings to this family in desperate need.

At this point, we're all sweaty and running on adrenaline...and God's blessings.

Scott hands me a chunk of cash to help with the A/C purchase and any other items.  I start making my list with the family.  "What do you need me to buy at the store?" I ask.  The answer for each: underwear.  That's it...

We caravan back to the apartment and after unloading everything, the mom says, "This is such a blessing.  You just don't know."  Her oldest daughter tells me, "This day is such a beautiful day now."

The reality is still impossible to avoid.  There is nowhere to sit.  No sofas, no dining room table and chairs.

We are still short three beds.  The bugs are continuing to reveal themselves.

I tell the family I'll be back with Matt and an A/C, along with a few other items after he's done with work.  I say goodbye as they start relaxing in their new living room...on the bare floor.

Then Tom calls me.  A furniture store has three twin mattresses they can donate.  He also has a used sofa we can get to the family the next day from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at McNeese State University.

Thank you, Lord for providing!

On my way home I call Matt.  He hasn't heard from me since the emotional breakdown a couple of hours ago.  He tells me he's ready to not just buy emergency items for the family - but the stuff that will make this apartment feel like a home for the family that started the day off homeless.

Cue the largest shopping trip of our lives!

We return to the apartment with a packed vehicle - full of food, dishes, pots, an A/C, bedding sets and a side table.  Matt meets the family and gets right to work to cool off the apartment that is uncomfortably hot at this point.

The family and I start unloading everything and finding a place for it all.  The mother tells me how the shower curtain and soft mat make her feel like she's "in a nice hotel."  The kids make their beds...even though it's just a twin mattress on the floor.  The living room now has one piece of furniture: a side table.

When we get in the car, I realize it's almost 8:00 P.M.  For a morning news anchor, that's equivalent to midnight!

When we get back to our house, my mind is still racing with what we need to help secure for this family.  I know a dining room table and chairs is a top priority so they don't have to eat on the floor.

We will find it.  The Lord always provides.

When I pulled out of our driveway this morning at 3:15 to head to work, guess what I see in the neighbor's yard next to the garbage can...

Yep, a dining room table and chairs.

Matt pulled them aside before work.  He also told me he spent part of his morning scouring local job listings for a housecleaning position - something the mother is hoping to find.  There's an opening where he works and he personally brought her an application this morning.  While he was there, Tom showed up with another helper to unload the sofa.  Their next stop was my house for the salvaged dining room table.

I finish the morning show, totally distracted and get a text from my Uncle Jody that he's brought our old microwave from Dry Creek to Lake Charles for the family.  That's a saved trip for us and a huge help for the family!

My reason for sharing this is two-fold.

First: We see needs every single day.  

I am so guilty of walking past them or looking past them, rather than turning around and doing something.  We don't all need to bring strangers into our cars...I know.

But we do have to recognize when we could be the difference-makers for someone in need.

When my Grandpa Clayton was alive, one of the Bible passages I can remember him sharing and living out was  Matthew 25:35-40.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?'"

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

Secondly: we are each uniquely equipped to serve.

While I was behind the steering wheel that turned around to check on this family, the blessings that came about are because of other fellow believers stepping out.

Becky strategizing to get the Mission opened up and resources flowing.
Tom and Sue heading straight to the rescue of strangers.
Scott using his truck to haul a precious bed and donating money for other needs.
Matt immediately getting on board with the commitment to help, installing an A/C and job hunting.
The local furniture store owner donating mattresses.
Uncle Jody taking the time to dig through Maw-Maw's storage shed for a microwave and going out of his way to deliver it.

Romans 12:4 says, "For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function."

I'm so thankful for our different functions that can come together as one body.

I don't know what's next for this new family I didn't know at this time yesterday, but I do know that they feel loved.  They have a home.  They have a place to rest their heads.

They know they are not invisible.



  1. I have tears coming down my face! This is an amazing story of your obedience! Thanks so much for sharing, sometimes we just have to open our eyes and look around because like you said there are needs ALL around us! :) God is good ALL the time and ALL the time God is good !

  2. Amen, sister! I almost passed it by. It's amazing what God will do when we are obedient!

  3. Wow....I'm bawling like a big ol' baby. What a beautiful testament to God's glory! Thank you so much for sharing and for restoring my faith in humanity.

  4. So proud to be your friend. Doesn't surprise me in the least that you turned around.

  5. Oh Britney, what a wonderful story. I too cried my eyes out. Such a beautiful thing you did. Everyday we take the little things for granted soft bed, air-conditioning, "underwear"... GOD is using you for great things. So glad you are sharing your stories!

  6. Can i borrow a tissue because they are sure flowing. I know it is hard for a lady to offer assistance but it is just amazing how much help came from that one question.
    "Do yall need help?"

    ( I also was distracted this morning but heard 3 words i wish i heard more on TV ....

    King James Bible !

  7. What a touching and powerful YEAH GOD story. I will pray for this family , pray for the people who helped to be bless and pray that I move quickly to help others and have bigger eyes to see others need over my own.

  8. Britney! You are a wonderful person....THIS is what I was talking about when I sent you that message on Facebook. More stories of people doing what you did is what we all need to hear to inspire us to keep moving forward in life and to remind us to always lean toward helping/giving instead of taking from others. I truly love this story and how one person caring enough to stop and help someone in need can motivate a wave of generosity and love from others. Thank you for sharing this. <3


  10. Thank for sharing. What a gift God gave to both you and that family. You really are a beautiful soul.

  11. Your a angel from heaven Ms Britney. God bless your sweet soul

  12. God Bless you all for helping that family!!!

  13. Beautiful! and so true! Everyone can make a difference!

  14. Amazing. Simply amazing. :) And I was complaining in my head that I had to awaken (from my warm bed, in my well-cooled home) and start the day's chores. I needed this reminder!! Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful blessing you are to this family and also to those of us who needed a reality check this morning.

  15. Message me if there are other items this family needs and our network, Brennan's Blessings can see what we can rustle up....Blessing Bags of toiletries etc....great Job, Britt....Kay Sonnier

  16. Tears of joy for this family will not stop falling from my eyes--you are their miracle. It is so easy to write a check to a charity and think to yourself, "Ok, I helped someone," but to stop and look someone in the eye and ask, "Do you need help?" takes real courage and faith. You and your family and friends are a blessing, not just to this family, but to all the rest of us as well. Thank you for carrying on God's work.

  17. This story is real .there are so many people out in this world that has no one to turn to. Everyday we go about our day griping and complaining about what is going on in our own lives.that we very rarely let a passing thought pass our minds that someone has it worse. Someone has no food .shelter.or just the simple day to day things that we have.I got a great idea. When you pass someone in your day to day lives instead of praying for go's to help them .maybe you can stop and ask them if there is anything they need.most people that are living on the streets dont want someone to feel sorry for them . Most just want someone to show they care.most of the time they just want someone to talk to them.not ro look down on them.most have had a good life but then. All of a sudden everything got tore out from underneath them .my whole life I have believed in god and I have seen some things that god has done that only god could do.I believe in the power of prayers. I also believe that wants us yes you and me and everyone to do our part. See god can do it all anything and everything. We just have to trust and believe in him.what we do in this world defines each on of us.what we do in this world for each other .will define were we will be for the rest of eturninait. Britney thank you for sharing this. Trust me when I say you have helped more then this one family.thank you for not looking the other way.god is looking down and smiling as he says . Job well done my faithful daughter Britney

  18. I needed this reminder! Thank you for sharing. We are His servants and He gives us opportunities to do His work if only we open our eyes and hearts to see!!!!

  19. Your life is a continuation of the heritage passed down through your parents and grandparents. Matthew 25 has been my life passage; the least of these come in many descriptions, but we must be willing to see them. I am so proud of you!

  20. God bless you! It's good to know there are still people in this sometimes cruel world,that will stop to help a complete stranger! And God bless all those that got on board to lend a helping hand! We all need to do more of this to help one another. that is what Jesus tells us to your brother or sister and to give help!

  21. Britney, I shared this story and it has been picked up by a Navy mom. She is sharing it with her community as well. You will never know when someone will need an angel. Thank God you were there.

  22. God Bless You!!! Such a beautiful and inspiring message... we all have the capabilities to help, and we should!

  23. OMG so touching god is smiling so big right now for what you have done...And this family that you have helped is feeling his love thru each of you...Thanks for sharing and God bless and all.....

  24. Can we get sizes of clothes for this family?

  25. I am so glad God used you that day! if they still need assistance, please let us know

  26. This was worth reading!!
    I'm waiting on sizes also.

  27. Amazing !! God will always show up when we obey His call

  28. Thank you so much for being willing to help meet the needs of a family that will appreciate your generosity more than you can imagine!

    Here's a rundown of their sizes:

    Evelyn (mom, 39):
    Women's 8 in tops and pants, 7 underwear, 8 shoes

    Oldest girl (15):
    Junior/Women's 9 in tops and pants, 8 underwear, 9 shoes

    Boy (13):
    Boy's size 14 in shirts, 10 in pants, medium underwear, 9 men's shoes

    Youngest girl (11);
    Girl's size 14 in tops, 12 in pants, 6 in women's underwear, 7 women's shoes

  29. Thanks for yielding to the unction of not something, but somebody (Holy Spirit) within U! These same people may one day rise up and call U, Blessed!

  30. Thank you for sharing this story to help us open our eyes and our hearts in such a loving way. This is what we are called to do for the love of our Saviour. Your cup runneth over with the love and compassion you have shown that I hope will be a building block in my own life. My heart is for people and to love them no matter the circumstance. Our stories are so different from one another. You do not know the circumstances and judging is not an option. Thanks again Britney. God Bless you!

  31. To God be the Glory for the things that he has done. I'm sitting here with watery eyes because you never know someones story. Britney I commend you and your team on a job well done! I have two teenage daughters who just cleaned out their closets and I will be going through mines today. I have clothes I would love to donate to this family Instead of throwing them away. How can I get these items to this family? I have bibles also. Please email me or I can be reached at work St Pats Financial Counselor in the Admitting office. My name is Vonetta Williams Farmer.