It’s a cold December day. Over my head, gunmetal-gray clouds blanket the sky. Like unsmiling palace guards, they’re preventing the merest hint of the sun. For now, they are blocking the light.
I sling the red bucket bag over one shoulder. Setting my face toward the market entrance, my red slippers march quickly along. And then I hear it.
It sounds like a human voice, carried across a busy parking lot on an unseen arctic current. The wind whips my curls across my back, and now I am paying attention. One word rises above all the rest. A name? I think that’s what I hear. Then–yes. Yes, it is.
Down the way by another set of doors, a black woman sits on a chair. Back to the building, she’s ringing a bell, and her voice peals out, loud and strong. “Jesus, keep me from all wrong.”
I hurry in to the marketplace, moving quickly through the aisles with my list. Cabbage, hummus, fruit, and lettuce. As my hands gather and sort, my mind is back in the parking lot, hearing a strange woman sing. Thinking about that name in her mouth.
My little cart is loaded now, and I’m leaving the store. Instead of finding my car, though, I turn left, and four wheels and two red slippers change course. There she sits.
“I heard you singing,” I say, looking into her warm, pleasant face. “I heard the name of Jesus, and it was lovely.” Her warm, pleasant face is now wreathed in big smiles. On a cloudy day, the sun has come out, and it’s resting upon her visage.
“So many people don’t have hope these days. Folks are scared, full of fear. They don’t know what’s coming. Your singing is offering hope.”
The chocolate-brown eyes that looking up at me are swimming, now, with tears. “You gonna make me cry,” she says.
For a few minutes, I hear her story. “God healed me,” she says, “from cancer and a stroke. He wakes me up early in the mornin’. My son says, ‘Mom, God’s tryin’ to tell you somethin’. So I hit the floor on my knees, and I pray.
“Some people that come along (at the places where she rings her bell), they say stuff like, ‘F— the Salvation Army.’ Why they gotta be like that? And you know the ‘h’ word, humbug? They say that, too. ‘Bah, humbug.'” I don’t know why.
“It’s because they don’t know they’re loved.” That’s what I say to my brown sister. “When people don’t know how much God reaaallly loves ’em, they don’t have love to give away.” In a high and holy season, I know it’s true. People are suffering for lack of love.
Before I go, I ask her if I can take her picture and tell my friends about her. There comes the sun again, shining on her face. First, though, she asks that I please let her put some lip gloss on first. Which I do, and then she takes up her bell and starts to sing.
For a few moments, I listen to a brave, hope-filled woman giving what she has to give to Lord Christ…His name in her mouth and her voice raised in song. She knows His name, He knows hers, and now I know her name, too.
Meet Deirdre, friend of Jesus, giver of Hope. On this cold, wintry day, no clouds can block the Light. The Son, thank God, is shining bright.
“What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.” – Christina Rosetti