A Card-Carrying Bag Lady

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I’m not a bag lady. I’m not. But I could be mistaken for one. Especially since I’m sixty years old, ride the bus and carry bags. Big Bags. Bags full of things like rocks, sticks, and empty cans- all stuff I use in my classroom.
People glance at me sideways, then up and down. They think, “She’s dressed kinda nice for a bag lady, but her hair and clod-hopper walking shoes are a dead give-away, not to mention the tin cans in her bag. I want to say, “Hey! I’m a teacher; I have a life.”
Unfortunately, I also have a mouse. Sometimes he rides the bus with me. Well WHAT?! I should leave him to die of malnutrition in the classroom over the long week-end? A fellow bus-rider once asked me in a lilting voice, “Ahhh…and is this your little friend?” I said, “Well, umm…yes- mine and the students in my classroom.” Later, she asked the whereabouts of a certain shop. I explained the route, and as she stepped off the bus, she thanked me. I smiled back, “Oh don’t thank me- my mouse gave me directions.”
So that’s about three strikes right there, and now this:
But let me back up. Forty-three years ago, when I was new believer, I’d forget to pray. I’d spend days trying to figure things out with no success and then remember, “Oh-wait, I can ask the Lord about this.” (I’d wrestled with the issue of whether something was too small to pray about, until someone wisely pointed out, “If it’s big enough to worry about, it’s big enough to pray about). But the actual talking to God thing was hard to remember. I mean I can’t actually see Him sitting across from me drinking his coffee, so I just have to take His Word for it (NEVER will I leave you, NEVER will I forsake you). It was such a discipline, praying. One that took years to cultivate.
But now, things are sort of reversed. My days seem more like one long prayer, with life interspersed. It starts in the morning with something very liturgical like, “Lord, please help me get out of bed. Thank you.” It continues while I’m looking in the mirror, “Oh and Lord- thank you for a new day. You have my permission to Do Something in me, because well- I’m pretty sure if you don’t, it’s not gonna get done”. And then I see a Facebook status from a tatted-up teen with an unnatural affinity for four-letter words, and I say, “Lord, wash away all this poor girl’s pain- and while you’re at it, wash her mouth out with soap.” And so it goes.
This is a problem. It’s a problem because I forget to carry on these conversations IN MY HEAD. Yesterday, I walked to the bus stop and the very moment I got there, a beautiful young woman from Iraq smiled and in broken English (is there any other kind? I mean, what other language has a phonetic rule called the “no reason e” as in come, silent b [comb] and silent p and s [corps of engineers]?) she told me she liked my hair and that she used to do hair in Iraq, but can’t anymore because she has a nerve disease throughout her body which especially affects the right side of her face and so she has to take a bunch of pills and take the bus once a week to see her doctor which is where she is going right now.
She actually said it that fast.
Then I heard Someone Else I’d been talking to say, “Pray for her.” Well, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that He usually has something up His sleeve when He asks me to pray for a complete stranger in front of a handful of other complete strangers, so I said very quietly to Him, “Boy this better be good…” and asked the woman if I could pray for her and she said yes, and so I touched her cheek and prayed for her to be healed, and she thanked me profusely and asked me to pray for her mother still in Iraq who is in danger because of the war. So I gave her my card and told her to please call and let me know how she’s doing.
But wait- it gets worse…
Now I’m walking to my transfer bus and I’m still praying for the woman and her mother, neither of whom are in the vicinity and I’m suddenly aware that other people who ARE in the vicinity, can hear me. There I am with my chunky walking shoes, my bags, and talking to- “Yeah, right- she’s talking to GOD”.
So if someone tells you about this bag lady at the bus stop, please tell them that, in spite of appearances, I just happen to have a life: A prayer life.
And a pet mouse named Ralph S.
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thes. 5:17-19

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