He stood by the entrance to the shopping plaza, sign in hand, hoping, praying someone would stop and give him money. So many cars drove past, not giving him a second glance. He appeared Middle Eastern and was decently dressed, wearing new tennis shoes and a collared shirt. Why on earth was he asking for a handout? On my way out of the plaza, I pulled up to the light and motioned him to my window. In the 30 seconds or so we had before the light changed, I learned he simply needed $6 and change to pick up a prescription for his daughter. That was it. I told him to meet me at the pharmacy.
It turns out he was new to the state, relocating with his young daughter and wife, both home sick. He was able to transfer her asthma prescription, but was still waiting on state health insurance to go through when she got sick and her asthma started acting up. He was two days away from his first paycheck. And he was flat broke. I paid for his prescription, for an over the counter medication for his wife, and for milk, eggs, and bread to get him through the next couple days. He insisted he needed to pay me back. I insisted he needed to pay it forward. It was possibly the best $25 I ever spent.
Some saw just another panhandler, and possibly an "outsider" at that. I saw a person in need.
Hathach came back and told Esther everything Mordecai had said. Esther talked it over with Hathach and then sent him back to Mordecai with this message: “Everyone who works for the king here, and even the people out in the provinces, knows that there is a single fate for every man or woman who approaches the king without being invited: death. The one exception is if the king extends his gold scepter; then he or she may live. And it’s been thirty days now since I’ve been invited to come to the king.”
When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”
Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”
Mordecai left and carried out Esther’s instructions.
Esther 4:10-17Esther went from outsider to insider...Queen, even. Mordecai was an outsider. Literally. He was outside the gate, in sackcloth and ashes, hoping his message would not only get to, but get through to Esther. She was in a position to do something - to help. She could speak up for the people who couldn't speak up for themselves, or who were punished for doing so.
The baby was screaming in a car seat in a shopping cart. A harried looking mom read baby cereal labels while trying to rock the cart back and forth with her foot. Baby screamed on. My brain screamed, "Why doesn't the mom just pick up the baby??!!!??? Pick. up. the. baby!" The anti-cry-it-out mom in me just wanted to swoop in and pick up the baby myself. The introvert in me wished I could ignore it all and walk away. Instead, I approached, and said, "What a beautiful baby!" to the Mom and then started talking to the baby, in hopes that she'd calm down. The appearance of a kind face seemed to do the trick and Baby settled down. Mom mumbled a thanks and something about trying to figure out WIC checks and no sleep and no help. Baby soon started fussing again, and I said to Mom, "What don't you pick her up and hold her while I help you sort out these checks. I used to be on WIC myself, so I might be able to help. She really seems to need you." At this, Mom's shoulders relaxed, she took a breath, and she picked up baby. "Sometimes you just need to stop everything and hold the baby - and sometimes that's the most difficult thing to do, especially when they don't let you sleep and you have so much to do! You carry her, I'll help you shop, if you don't mind." Looking shocked, she agreed. Baby soon fell asleep in Mom's arms, we got the few other things she came for, and I left them, Baby sleeping, Mom with a smile on her face, at the register. That was the best 25 minutes I ever spent.
Have you been in a position to speak up for someone who couldn't speak up for themselves? To help someone on the outside from your position on the inside?
Food banks, community organizations, programs for teens, senior centers, church ministries... there are so many opportunities to give. Just look around you, find something that calls to your heart, and find a way to use your gifts to help.
Babies, refugees, the bullied, veterans, the others, the outsiders, the lost, the forgotten ... there are so many people who need your voice. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.