Claire was about five feet, four inches tall and skinny as a rail. On a windy day, you’d be afraid that a strong gust could blow her away. When people found out that she was only 31 they had to stifle their surprise because Claire could easily pass for being much, much older. She had experienced far more life than any 31-year-old should be able to claim: abused through elementary school, a runaway by 13, an addict by 16, and until she was 27 she never owned more than the clothes on her back and the contents of a dirty rucksack.
To hear her describe it, her path to recovery started by very dumb luck. She had been caught stealing and the grocery store manager decided to work out some frustration by berating her. The tirade didn’t surprise her because in her words, “I already knew I was garbage so what could be said to make me feel worse?”
When the police were called, Officer Sharp showed up and convinced the manager to not press charges because he would take care of it. Instead of taking Claire to jail he took her to a church, “If it had been another day or another cop I don’t know where I’d be. I’d been taken in by the law before, but this time I was taken in by love.”
“And to be honest I didn’t want it. Everyone I knew was out to get something from me, and to me, these people had everything. In my mind, all these people been born with the [silver] spoon in their mouths and I been born with a knife to my throat. And I just stuck around because it was warm inside and I was hungry.” The church Officer Sharp took her to had connections to a residential women’s shelter that had recovery programs, skills classes, and systems to help people get off the street.
After a few false starts, Claire got an apartment, a job, and for the first time in a decade, she wasn’t hungry all the time. At 31, she was also excited to be nearing the fourth anniversary of her sobriety, a day more significant to her than any birthday could ever be. The way she described it, “the day I was born was the day things started going wrong, but the day God got me clean was the first time things went right.”
We are surrounded by people like Claire, and most of us have grown accustomed to ignoring them.
“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…’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed 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.’” -Matthew 25:35-
This holiday season we have the opportunity to help “the least of these.” We don’t do it out of obligation or to prove to people how generous we are. We give out of the abundance of love that we have received. I hope you will consider giving to our Christmas food drive.