“My name is Natalie. N-A-T-A-L-I-E. I’m four-years-old. What’s your name?”
“It’s Dawn. D-A-W-N.”
“Hi Dawn! I’m going to call you ‘friend.’”
And she did.
In the hour I spent with that sweet little girl, she called me “friend” probably 50 times…every single time she spoke with me.
I guess if you need a quick reminder of what really matters you should just ask a homeless four-year-old.
She didn’t care about task lists, finances, work, material items or even family drama. She cared about relationships.
Relationships built on a Jesus kind of love. Maybe Natalie didn’t know it was a Jesus kind of love. But I have no doubt.
You see…Jesus loved me through Natalie tonight. Natalie decided to be my friend. She didn’t know me, but it didn’t matter. She smiled at me. She hugged me. She held my hand. She wiped chocolate from my sleeve. She carried my dirty dishes to the kitchen. She introduced me to her family. She shared a million stories with me.
When you think about it, it’s totally backwards. You see, Natalie is one of eight kids. Her family has been homeless since October. She and her family live out of their car and at shelters. She was excited about getting a pair of shoes today that actually fit. Her entire family has to believe in the goodness of people and the goodness of God working through people to see hope for tomorrow.
I was supposed to be there serving her! Yet, she wanted to be a friend to me. Take care of me. Love me.
She probably never will know how much I needed that friendship tonight. She probably never will know that she made a permanent imprint on my heart. She probably never will know that Jesus loved me through her.
Her unconditional love reminded me of the importance of letting what Jesus pours into me, pour into the lives of others…a love that is unconditionally compassionate…a love that smiles at strangers…a love that genuinely cares…a love not impeded by worry or selfishness.
Thank you, Natalie. Thank you for becoming a piece of my heart. Thank you for reminding me what really matters.
And, God, thank you for Natalie.
* * *
Natalie and her family just found out that they’ve got housing. They’ll be moving into a newly remodeled apartment within two weeks. Thank God. You should have seen how excited Natalie’s mom was…seeing her excitement nearly brought me to tears.
The Family Place is a day shelter serving homeless families in St. Paul, Minn. The majority of their guests are children. Forty-seven percent of the homeless in St. Paul are children and teenagers. Often, their families have lost their housing because of medical emergencies, job losses and even landlord defaults and condemnations. They’ve unexpectedly found themselves in a new and difficult world, a world where hope and dignity are pushed aside to make room for daily survival. My church, Bloom, partners with this organization to serve their guests without agenda.