Eyes are the window to the soul. What I find there is Hope. Hope that trials can end, that dreams can live on, and that love will never die. How many of us take the time to look for the Hope in the eyes of another?
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting Danielle's hope-filled eyes. The flecks of gold in her soft hazel eyes blinked and sparkled as she caught mine. We were on a busy city sidewalk with shops and parking lots, and business of everyone busy about, she would have been easy to miss. Her dirty blond hair pulled back in a messy bun, the mud-caked boots, dirty workman’s pants, and the coat that was 3 sizes too big was just there to keep her warm.
She flashed eyes in hope again towards mine but her body was in fear as she approached me. With the gentle voice that spoke with embarrassment and humility she asked, "Miss, can you spare some change?"
My voice caught in my throat as I tried to answer her. I knew my pockets were empty but her need was great. I looked at her eyes and saw a glimmer of hope that I would say yes. But no! I, with embarrassment, shared with her that I couldn’t give her anything. I didn’t bring my purse with me. But I told her I would pray and I would figure something out.
The flicker of hope left, and she just nodded and retreated to the wall of a shop in the strip mall. I walked to the school van, open the door, sat inside, and knew that there was more God wanted me to do.
I know that homeless-hopeless-helpless-have to beg type feeling and I started to pray as I sat in the van. Danielle kept looking in my direction. Each time she did our eyes caught and could not drop. My friend and I said a prayer and my friend felt prompted to offered to pay for a pizza. She had her purse with her. We went out of the school van and shared the news with her.
I felt His words tell me to touch her. To put my hand on her back gently rubbing and patting it, but to not let go of the connection. He then said I need to let her know I heard her prayer this morning. That is why you are here. My heart was flooded with warmth and light and I placed my hand on her back. I could feel her tiny bony frame through her coat and prayed that somehow I was conveying the meaning that He wanted me to.
Her eyes flashed back with a little hope. My eyes locked onto hers and I felt these words come from me, "I see you. I know you. You have worth." Soft gentle tears fell from the sparkle flecks of her eyes. It’s one of those locked-in-time moments in the cold on the sidewalk of a strip mall as everyone was passing us going about their business that you know that God was in charge and you were a tool in His hands.
On that cold sidewalk, we offered to pray with her. She refused the offer. She did not want that. My friend asked if she was hungry and would want a pizza. With my hand on her back, she accepted the second offer of getting a pizza. Together we invited her into the pizza shop.
My hand was still on her back and never dropped. She was hesitant, and whispered, "I don't think I can go in," Her head dropped and she looked down at herself. My hand seemed to know what to do and gently patted her back. She lifted her head up. My eyes caught hers again, “I’m with you. You are not alone.”
The warmth of the shop and the hug of the smell of fresh food hit her and more tears fell. We sat in the corner. Her eyes bent down and the tile floor and then would flash over to look the window again. My friend ordered the pizza at the counter while I sat with Danielle my hand never leaving her back.
She quietly shared that she was 23. She was from Houston, and that her backpack had been stolen that morning in the homeless camp. Her voice caught with a sense of shame in declaring that, and the trembling frame now started to bend over a little lower. My hand continued to pat her back and reassure her. Silence. It was shared in this moment of waiting for the pizza.
She gained a little strength and said that she missed her sister, Sharice. I told her that hope is a strong belief and that I hoped they can be reunited again. My words were telling her that and my heart was praying deeply for it. Through all of that, I never let my hand fall and kept connected with her eyes and she shared more of her painful story. I just held her—we were silent in a crowded pizza shop.
The pizza was going to take another 5 minutes and my teaching obligation to get back to for work was coming soon. (Our 17 pizzas for the big Friendship Party we ready. There were about 60 students and staff that were waiting on us to return with food for them).
I knew I was going to have to leave abruptly and wanted to reassure her that she was loved. She was worth fighting for, that she has light, that she was important, that this was not how the story ends! That there was so much more—even real Hope! I only had mere seconds to convey all of that but I didn’t know how to do it But, God did.
“Thank you, Danielle, for coming into my life. I will treasure this day. I need to tell you that there is hope. There is more to life than this. Hope is real. Please know that you are loved by many and you can add me to that list. I will never forget you.” My friend smiled as well and shared with her that she could stay in the shop until her food was ready. She humbly nodded and blinked back a few more tears.
As we stood to leave my hand released from her back. I looked back at her one last time and a small thin smile pulled into place on her face, and her eyes had that hope back in them. She turned back towards the counter waiting for her pizza. That was the last image I had of her.
As I shut the door of the van and smelled the 17 pizzas in the back seat, I began to pray in gratitude. This time tears were on my checks. Heavenly Father is so willing to bless the lives of His children if we are willing to look, quiet our to-do list, and be there for His family.
There is always HOPE. There is always Hope that things will turn out better. I will always remember Danielle’s Hope-filled eyes and treasure the moment that we saw each other. This was a Valentine’s Day that I will never forget.
If you know of someone in need and who needs to have hope in their lives, please share with them Pinpoints of Light. There is hope that lives can change, homelessness can change, and life can begin again.