At times, she walks barefoot around the motel she manages. She’s barefoot because she has given away her last pair of shoes to girls who need them. She explains it by saying that they are out walking Colfax and she only needs to get around on the pavement in front of the motel.Penny* is about as nondescript a person as you will find. Shoulder length blonde hair, about 5 foot tall, usually wearing jeans or sweats and a t-shirt. She is a bit socially awkward but as I have gotten to know her, she engages and has amazingly thoughtful conversations with me. Much like the rag-tag group of people who rent rooms from her, she too has had a hard life.She certainly has faith in God though I haven’t gotten far enough to know if she has a clear commitment to Jesus.
I do know this: I see Jesus in her, in the way she acts to the littlest and the least. More, her example inspires me to live as she does, humbly giving to others. She is my teacher.We are in her motel fairly regularly on Monday evenings. I had gotten to know her a bit over time, but at first I found her difficult to connect with. Like Craig, she didn’t look me in the eye.That changed one night. I was trying to find out what had happened to a couple I knew from Penny’s motel. The husband had a heroin addiction and I had connected him to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group. As often happens, they had abruptly moved out of the motel and I wondered what she knew about them. The husband was back on the streets and the wife was in Oregon. Penny kept in touch with her via Facebook.
As we talked, it became clear to me that she cared a lot about this couple and also about the others who lived in her motel. Like a lot of the female motel managers, she had become a surrogate mom to “her people. “When I affirmed her love for her people, she told me more. She talked about the young prostitutes who work the stretch of Colfax in front of her motel. Some as young as 16, they are mostly unwanted by their families and turn to prostitution to survive. They barely do, often sleeping in the park, facing the danger of life outside. Penny had gotten to know them and love them. If she had food in her room, she gave it to them, even though she has a couple of her own kids living with her there. These girls now regularly come to her for help; she gives them her clothes, often leaving herself with only the clothes she is wearing. When the girls need shoes, she gives them hers and at times she literally walks around the motel barefoot as the shoes she gave away were her only pair.
I am learning more about what it means to live like Jesus from my friend Penny. She displays a generosity and self-sacrifice that humbles me. Her giving makes mine seem puny; because of what I have seen in her, I want to grow deeper in the way I give to those in need.Last week I gave a man who was going to sleep outside on a cool night the coat and hat I was wearing. But when I did that I knew that between our motel room and our house I had a whole bunch of coats and hats to replace it with. That is a small generosity compared with giving away your last pair of shoes.Penny’s husband harasses her, asking her “do you think you are Mother Theresa?” At first she was insulted until she realized that Mother Theresa was a saint! She then decided to take his words as a compliment. Plus, as she told me, she didn’t really care what others thought about her. She just wanted to help these girls. Not only that, but God always quickly provided another pair of shoes for her.Nondescript and barefoot, I see Jesus in her.
Please pray with us: Pray for…supplies. I told Penny I would begin to find food and clothing to give to her to pass on to the girls. Our hope is that this will open doors for us to connect with them and minister to them.Pray for…the girls Penny ministers to and for Penny to continue to show the love of Jesus to them.Pray for…me as I learn generosity from her, a barefoot representative of Jesus.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.