Feeding the Strays

Feeding the Strays

Posted on August 16, 2017

BY CURT AUSTIN, GRACE BLOGGER & ATTENDER

It was a wail of sorrow unlike any we'd ever heard before. It shook us from our restful sleep. Outside our bedroom window someone was crying out at the top of their voice and it sent chills down my spine. My wife checked the bedside alarm; it was four o'clock in the morning. †

We made our way downstairs and out into the backyard where we searched for the source of the bawling that increased in volume and intensity. We quickly determined it was coming from the back corner of our small property. We approached slowly and found, lying on the large, gray electric transformer, a barefoot woman curled up and shrieking with sobs. It was impossible to know if she was in physical pain or if she was dealing with sorrow beyond words, but clearly, something was terribly wrong.†

We called to her but she didn't hear us. We touched her shoulder and her leg but there was no response. The crying continued and showed no signs of diminishing; it was truly pitiful. Eventually, the woman paused long enough to notice we were beside her in the dark and she pulled herself up, sitting on the edge of the transformer. Her face was wet from tears that wouldn't stop. As I called the police, my wife, Anita approached her and spoke gently, offering reassuring words. She helped her off the transformer and from the corner of the yard, slowly guiding her back to the house. Even with the caring reassurance, the crying continued through a mixture of well-formed cuss words and incoherent shouts. †

My wife and I are no strangers to caring for people in pain, but this was the first time we'd ever found an inconsolable woman in our back yard at four in the morning.† This was new territory for us.†

Once in the bright light of the front porch, several things quickly became evident: First, this young woman, in her early 20's, was pregnant. Next, she was very drunk and highly upset. And finally, she didn't know where she lived or exactly how she'd ended up in our yard.†

Eventually, she calmed down enough to explain a story that involved a party in downtown Indianapolis, a fight between her boyfriend and another man, a car crash, and a cab ride to our quiet suburban neighborhood where she was dropped off in the dark. Her crying was a response to a boyfriend who left her heartbroken and a life that was left in shambles. †

Anita spoke to this young, broken woman in soft, soothing tones. The conversation became less agitated and a calm settled over the quiet neighborhood again. As my wife continued to engage her and we awaited the police, a stray cat approached us out of the dark. We've lived in this house nearly 17-years and I've never seen that cat before, or since. It walked right up to our distraught visitor who gently picked it up, held it in her lap, and stroked it soothingly, petting it, comforting it. In a sense, comforting herself. †

The police arrived, searched through her purse, and found information related to the home where she was staying with friends. As one officer directed her to his car, my wife stopped them and hugged the young woman. She told her that we would continue to pray for her and her baby. The young woman thanked Anita and then staggered to the police cruiser that drove her home for the night...only a block from our house. †

The second officer stayed to talk to us a few minutes. He looked at my wife and then looked down to the cat, still circling her feet. He said, with a wry smile on his face, "You know, if you feed the strays, they'll keep coming back."†

And that's when the truth of the moment struck me. This is what we are called to do...we are called to feed the strays. The officer wasn't being mean-spirited. He was telling the truth. He was proclaiming the Gospel in our front yard at 4:35 in the morning on a Wednesday: If you feed them, if you care for them, they'll come back. Thank God!†

Jesus engaged the woman at the well who'd strayed from social norms and it changed her life. In fact, it altered her entire community. Jesus knew the power of offering comfort to the stray. Didn't he tell of the story of the Shepherd searching for the one lost sheep? †

When we care for people and really get to know them, despite their broken and shattered lives, they will keep coming back. People want to be fed. They want to be loved. They want to find comfort. They want to know peace. So, why shouldn't we be the ones to offer it? After all, if we, as Christians are "little Christs", isn't that our job? Isn't that our calling? Isn't it what we've been talking about the past few months?

A couple days later, Anita went to visit another neighbor. She was gone for over an hour. As it turned out, this woman was struggling with crippling loneliness and depression. She needed someone to talk to. She needed someone to be a listening ear. She needed someone to pray with her.†

A week later, a couple sat on our living room couch sharing with us the challenges in their marriage. He was tired of being inconvenienced. She was tired of his negativity. They needed someone to talk to. They needed someone to listen. They needed someone to pray with them.†

We live in an average suburban neighborhood; nothing special at all. You wouldn't guess that people all around are lost, they are strays. Occasionally, they wander out into the open but more often they stay hidden away in their cocoon of safety; behind well-maintained yards and tightly closed front doors. But the truth is that families are hurting, men and women are crying out, longing for love. And those of us to call ourselves Christian are the perfect people to offer it to them.

Find the Lost

It doesn't take much to step into someone's life and offer them hope and courage. Saying "yes" to helping one person can be the catalyst for change they've needed for so long. That's what we're called to do as Christians and we want to give you a few easy ways to step in and be that change to someone in your own backyard:

  • Feed a Local Hamilton County Family. You can do this by serving in our Care Center or bringing†a Green Bag filled with food. Did you know that by serving just once a week, you can help feed an additional 5 families? Learn more here.

  • Connect in Community. We have a group just for you right here at Grace. By connecting in a group, you can meet other people who need to be loved and supported.†Learn more here.

  • Care for the "Least of These" in Indy. We have partner organizations right here in Indianapolis who provide services for local youths that need tutoring, homeless men and women who need care, kids and teens who need a safe place to call home, and more. All they need is for you to step in.†Learn more here.

Comments

Great post! You are correct, there are people all around us crying out for help. It does look very different, and you have to get past the facade of life to see it. Everyone around us is spending so much time perfecting the "view" others see, while hiding their true need. Great job of opening your heart to this woman and those in your community.

Posted by Marcus on September 2, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

Great post! You are correct, there are people all around us crying out for help. It does look very different, and you have to get past the facade of life to see it. Everyone around us is spending so much time perfecting the "view" others see, while hiding their true need. Great job of opening your heart to this woman and those in your community.

Posted by Marcus on September 2, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

Thanks for sharing. Loving God and Loving Others is often best expressed by listening and being present with another. What could happen if we were all awakened by the cries of others?

Posted by corinne on August 16, 2017 @ 10:47 am