Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Elaina's Story

Elaina* doesn't speak English, and doesn't understand it very well either. Her step-mother abuses her and she doesn't know what happened to her real mom. She tries very hard in school and is doing fairly well, but a lot of the other children shun her because she doesn't speak English. I asked her what her favorite thing to eat was, and she told me she didn’t really care as long as she had food. This little girl was by far the greatest blessing of my summer thus far, and my interaction with her was truly of God's making. I struggle with Spanish and foreign languages in general. Through a power that I know was not my own, I found myself recalling Spanish that I never thought I would remember. I found myself actually conversing with her in Spanish. It was somewhat broken, and our conversation was limited by the small number of verbs I know, but what I remembered was exactly what I needed. She tried to give me a dollar. What broke my heart was when she told me that she thought she needed to pay me to be her friend. After a long conversation, slowed by my slow memory, I was able to explain to her that she didn't need to give me money for me to like her. I finally got her to put the money back in her bag and I was able to get a big hug before I left for the day. The world she lives in is so different from my own, yet somehow we found each other. God in His grace allowed me to befriend her, and even more graciously allowed me to be embraced by her tiny little arms.

The question I then find myself asking is, “God, why bring me into this little girl’s life when I can’t do anything to solve any of her problems?” I find myself asking this about almost every interaction I have with anyone here in LA. But then again, isn’t that true of any interaction I have with anyone, friend or stranger? I can’t change anyone. I can’t fix things. One person cannot change the world. And I am learning to be okay with that. Every person has a story. We all walk a road. Some believe it is a road of our own choosing. Some believe it is laid out for us before we are born. Some don’t believe anything at all. But differences aside, everyone is on a journey through life, and the collisions we have with one another often shape how we will respond when future collisions come. What do I mean by that? I’m still figuring it out. But this I do know; I collide with people. Every. Single. Day. Whether by my choice or not, I go in and out of people’s stories, their journeys, on a moment by moment basis. I may not be able to fix Elaina’s home situation, but I can show her what love is and maybe give her hope for something more. And maybe, ten years from now, someone else will collide with her and be able to show her what it is she’s been hoping for. And maybe no one will. But all I have is now. This one moment to embrace her with everything I have, even though it means my heart will be broken when I have to say goodbye; this one moment to turn away and leave her believing more than ever that no one loves her, because it’s easier for me. I can’t take myself out of her story; like it or not I’m already in it. So the real question I must face is not “Why God?” but “How God?” “How can I take every moment captive and use it for her benefit and the glory of your kingdom?” Maybe someday I’ll figure out a 12-step working answer for that question. I hope I don’t though. I’d rather just keep loving. Yeah it’s a risk, and sometimes I’ll get burned. But in the words of John Keats, “I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion ; I have shuddered at it. I shudder no more. I could be martyred for my religion. Love is my religion. I could die for that. I could die for you.” Elaina, it hurts to love you, but I do it anyway. God, give me the courage to love to the point of pain every single day. Like King David, shall I offer what costs me nothing? May it never be.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

-Lisa, 2007 CSM LA City Host

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