Something caught my attention. It could have been the way she was nestled into her mother’s side, resting her head against her arm. It could have been the sheer look of exhaustion on her face. Or perhaps, it was the flicker of hope that flashed through her deep, brown eyes when I offered her a smile.
A little girl, probably no older than 10, captured my heart in a split second, and I couldn’t even tell you her first name…or anything about her for that matter. The only thing I know is that she has a story. She is someone’s daughter, someone’s granddaughter, someone’s student, someone’s friend…someone’s hope for a better future.
This morning, I partnered with Empower Ocala through my church, Church of Hope. In the course of seven hours, thousands of bags were filled with groceries for people searching for a tiny sliver of hope in our community. Over 7,700 people walked through those lines, grabbing bags and trying to fill a void somewhere in-between life’s chaos. But what I saw over and over today was the reality that each one of those 7,700 people that I walked by, gave a bag of groceries to, or offered a smile to, has a story.
A brother and sister began to walk towards me, helping their mom carry her groceries. As they walked, they offered big smiles…smiles that held high anticipation that today was going to be a good day. A typical kid would think that a good day was equated to how many games they won on their Wii and if they were able to hang out with their friends or not. These two, however, were happy to get a couple bags of groceries.
Two women were wearing shirts honoring someone who had died. When asked, this precious lady revealed that her son had committed suicide in March of this year. Struggling to support her family and her raw emotions, she came searching for hope. If we wouldn’t have asked, she would have just been another face in the crowd, her story, unheard.
There are stories all around me, every day. From the people I wait in line with at Publix, to the cashier at McDonald’s who hands me a Dr. Pepper…behind each set of eyes is a story filled with deep, abiding joy and unexplainable pain, loss and sadness. The question I’ve been wrestling with as today draws to a close is: did I care enough to see their story? I may not be able to see into all of it, but did I see a glimpse of the bigger picture…a glimpse into the opportunity to share the hope I have in Christ?
Behind that beautiful little 10-year-old’s eyes is a story. She has seen, heard and experienced things that I don’t know. But what I saw in her eyes was extremely familiar to my 20-year-old self. I saw eyes searching for something more than the comfort of her mother’s embrace, something beyond just today. But when she caught my eye, and saw me smile, it was like fresh resolve bubbled out of her as she offered me a smile back. And in that moment, time stopped and I realized that we’re both searching for the same thing: hope. Hope in something eternal, never temporary. Something strong, tested and true. Someone to lift us up, empower us, encourage us. And as I pray for the little girl whose name I don’t even know, I pray that she discovers hope in Christ, just like I did.