The wind howled furiously around her, like a pack of ravenous wolves ready to devour the first living thing who dared to venture out in the bitter cold. She struggled and limped through the piles of snow on the sidewalk. Her husband walked beside her, mightily pushing their three-year-old son in his stroller in the snow. Wheels caught and bowed to the pressure of the snow, hardened by wind and footprints into biting balls of ice.
The young family decided to try to push the stroller on the street, where snow plows had helped clear a way. Almost immediately, cars veered dangerously close to the child, and drivers angrily honked their horns.
“Why don’t you get a job? You are horrible parents,” one driver yelled out as he hastily rolled his window down and back up.
The woman bowed her head deeper as she thought about the years of schooling, her carefully crafted thesis, her pride when she walked across the stage to receive her master’s diploma. All for what? A low-wage, low-respect job with little opportunity for advancement. But “get a job?” She did work 40 hours a week already!
Indeed, she felt lucky to have any job. On a brighter, warmer day, she had owned a car and a better job. She had just married the love of her life, and the future looked hopeful as the bright morning sun. Soon, too soon, threatening storm clouds crowded out her sun, and the rain of life stole away her job.
A year after the wedding, she and her husband joyfully welcomed their new son into the world. But the pregnancy had destroyed all of her job interviews, and the bad economy winked at racism against her dark-skinned husband as he struggled to find work. The mounting bills forced the family out of their heat and then out of their home by the time the infant was only three months old. They found friends to live with for a while. Then their car become their home.
That car was good to them and took them on a journey across the country to finally find a job and pay for housing once again. Life was getting better. But then that car, creaky and cantankerous as any soul who has lived past the fullness of her days, finally breathed her last, sputtering and sighing gently into death on the other side of the road.
The beloved car had died on the West Coast, along with all hope for finding work. They rented a car in a desperate journey to Minnesota, where a better economy and the hope of jobs beckoned. Public transit, and their feet pushing the baby stroller in the snow and the sun, would get them to the job, and the grocery store.
So here they were now, battling to push the stroller in the snow, empty refrigerator mocking the hollow pain in their hearts. They finally made it into the warm air of the grocery store. Holiday trees with festive decorations glittered along to sounds of Salvation Army bells and piped-in songs proclaiming Merry Christmas and peace to all. As she stomped the snow off her boots, she thought about another mother long ago. “No room in the inn or in the hearts of men,” she thought. “Maybe nothing has really changed.”
The small family walked the aisles of the grocery store, carefully selecting items that fit into the painstakingly-planned, bursting-at-the-seams budget. They were grateful for the food, though, thanking God that their stomachs would be full tonight. They brought their food to the checkout counter and pulled out their food stamp card. She felt the angry stares bore holes into her back and burn yet another scar into her heart.
“You are not welcome here. You takers. You’re so lazy. You just take and take from those who work hard.” The unspoken words thickened the air. She was suffocating, drowning in their hatred.
The family left the store and turned back home. The cold wind sucked the air out of their lungs. The toddler child began to cough. She reached down to pull the blanket up around his face. A tear escaped from her eye and dropped glistening on her child’s forehead. She bent down and kissed him. “I love you so much.”
A divine voice whispered in her heart, “I love you so much, too.”
She stood up and looked at the sky. The sun suddenly appeared from behind a snowy cloud. A beam of light warmed her face.
“But, God, life was never supposed to be this way.”
She sniffed back tears and struggled hard against the depression, the hopelessness, that threatened to engulf her life and snuff out the sunbeams.
“I know, my child. I see the cold hearts of people. I see how they’ve forgotten their oneness and their Creator. They have become evil and oppressive to each other. I don’t want anyone to have to face such hatred to push a stroller in the snow. Jesus experienced the same hatred on earth. I see it, and I will remember. Have hope. I am coming soon to restore righteousness on the earth. One day all will be well.”
She took a step forward and the air felt a little less cold, the wind a little less strong. She smiled. She thought about how healing begins with the least of these. Somehow, she had been chosen by the mighty Creator for this journey. She was following in the footsteps of Jesus.