A sea of ‘ones’

This essay first appeared on The Daily BS on February 3, 2024.

It happened some years ago. I was working full time, raising children, and writing a weekly newspaper column. Three times a week, I would slip up to the local coffee shop early in the morning to work on the next week’s piece before collecting the toddler and heading home to start my day job. Driving in the early-morning stillness, my thoughts would turn to prayer and meditation in preparation for the day’s challenges. Then one day, I found these words falling from my lips, “Ordain all of my appointments.”

Ordain. “To order or decree by virtue of superior authority.”

Those five words brought a transformational shift, for at once I began to see those around me with new eyes. Suddenly, interruptions and disruptions became appointments. Whoever was in my path that day became someone I could encourage instead of a hindrance to my plans. I started actively looking for them, and I began to find them everywhere. More and more, I found my heart expanding, making room for a sea of “ones” who seemed lost, lonely, and marginalized. All of them, someone else’s kid.

As I write, a stream of names and faces scrolls through my mind. In the ebb and flow of my ordinary life, here are some of the “ones” that God has brought me.

Two young men in line behind us at the grocery store who were buying alcohol. Looking at them, I saw my oldest son, and I knew the devastation it had brought him. Feeling the divine nudge, I looked up, up, and up at the tall, young man closest to my cart. He had a beautiful afro that circled his head like a cloud. “Excuse me,” I said, “can I tell you something?” At his nod, I began to speak of my son, of my maternal love for him, my great hope for his future and my own great hope for theirs. I promised them my prayers. To my utter surprise, that gentle giant leaned down, down, and down—twice, and twice he hugged me. Twice, he said these words, “Thank you.”

A falling-down drunken man on a sun-kissed beach. As he rolled, unsteady in the surf, I feared that he might drown. Feeling that nudge, I approached him and began to speak with the kindness and love of a mother. Stunned, he rose on wobbly legs. “I’m gay,” he said. (Yes, I know.) “I was raised in a Jesus Christ home, and my family rejected me.” (I nodded, smiling, and kept dabbing his face with a towel, for his nose was running from his tears.) Looking into his face, I said, “You are alive for a reason, and as long as you’re alive, there is hope for you.” He hugged me very hard, grateful for Love. I know his name, and I still speak it in prayer.

These are just a few examples of the answers to my years-long prayer. I want to bring it full circle now with one more story. Those two young men in the grocery-store line? When we left that day, my husband said to me, “I thought we were gonna have to run.” And I, through my tears, said to him, “I hope that somewhere, another mother is speaking to our son like that.”

Well, of all things. One night at the very worst of our son’s journey, I cried out to God from my pillow before falling asleep. “As I have been faithful to speak to the children of other mothers, please send someone to speak to mine.”

The next day, our son told his father what had happened. As he stood on a corner in a bustling city far away, panhandling, a gentleman passed by. He approached him, offering him some money for a meal. He departed. Soon, however, he returned. He had reservations for a hotel just up the road, but wasn’t going to use the last night. Would he like a room to sleep in for one night, a hot shower, a clean bed? Of course, he did, and the stranger left again.

But then he returned. “I was 30 minutes up the road,” he said, “and I knew I had to come back and warn you. I don’t know what is going to happen, but your time is running out. You must get right with God.” I wept when I heard it, for I knew that God had, indeed, heard my prayer, and that He was still on the job.

Recently, I spoke about this incident with my son. I asked him what the stranger’s warning had done. He said, “It planted two seeds. One, a seed of the fear of the Lord and, two, that God’s eye was still on me.” And those two seeds, the strong warning and a wisp of hope, kept him from utter destruction.

The law of sowing and reaping is real—what we plant, we will reap. I’m so thankful for the great privilege of sowing into other people’s kids and that others have sown into mine.

May God give us each a sea of “ones,” whoever we are, wherever we are. May we have the eyes to see them and the hearts to love them. God bless you.

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