I gave a lady my oatmeal today. That sounds like a weird thing to say, right? You give people all kinds of things: phone numbers, money, advise, the silent treatment. You don’t go around passing out oatmeal, at least I don’t. But today I gave a lady my oatmeal.
It started out like any other weekday morning, I was on my way to work and pulled into Starbucks for my ritual Decaf Americano with cream. I decided to also grab an oatmeal since my plan was to eat a light lunch due to the fact that I ate nearly an entire pizza yesterday, which by the way, I do not recommend. I figured a little oatmeal today would cancel out the sins of yesterda and would fill me up a better than a Carnation Instant Breakfast chocolate drink for breakfast, which I also do not recommend.
I paid for my items and out the door I sped, coffee in one hand, oatmeal in the other. Then I saw her.
About 20 feet from the entrance to Starbucks was this gal. She was wearing a thin t-shirt that was probably a size or two too small for her and a pair of faded, blue, cotton pants that had seen better days a long, long time ago. And I think she was wearing flip flops on this chilly fall morning. Her hair was long and full but clearly she had not brushed it in a while. She had no purse or wallet. She looked like she could be about my age.
And she was just standing there. Just standing there looking out into the parking lot, but not at anything in particular. Just staring blankly. But that’s not what caught my attention in the seconds it took me to walk by her.
As I walked past her to cross the parking lot to my Ford Explorer, my fancy coffee mug full of designer coffee in one hand, my overpriced oatmeal in the other hand, dressed in warm clothes, hair brushed and makeup on, I saw it.
I saw the pain and misery on her face. She briefly glanced over at me as I hurried by and I smiled at her because I didn’t know what else to do. She just kept on staring out into the parking lot and I kept on walking towards my car. But it was too late.
It’s amazing how many thoughts can cross your mind in 5 seconds:
“Why is she dressed like that, it’s cold outside?”
“I wonder if she does drugs?”
“I bet she’s panhandling, we shouldn’t encourage panhandlers, they’ll start making of habit of camping out at Starbucks.”
“Man, this oatmeal container is hot.”
“Why was her face so sad?”
“Were those tears in her eyes?”
“I bet she’s cold.”
“I’m going to be late for work.”
“I bet she’s hungry.”
“What does she keep staring at?”
“Maybe she’s mentally ill?”
“I bet she’s hungry.”
“If I give her my oatmeal, what will I eat for breakfast? I don’t have time to go in and by another one.”
“Maybe she doesn’t like oatmeal.”
“If I give her something will I be encouraging bad behavior?”
“She hasn’t asked one person for money and nobody else seems to see her.”
“This oatmeal container is really hot!”
“I’m going to be late for work.”
“I’m not going to be able to live with myself today if I don’t give her something.”
So halfway across the parking lot, I turned around and went back.
As I approached her I thought for sure she would look my way, but she just kept staring out into the unknown. It wasn’t until I was about 2 feet from her that I saw the cuts and marks on her mouth. I can’t say for sure, but it looked like she had been struck, several times. Her lips were bloody and cracked and the gaunt look on her face was haunting.
She didn’t see me. I was standing directly in front of her and she didn’t even see me, she simply stood there staring past me. I, in my extreme awkwardness, tried to get her attention.
“Do you want my oatmeal? It’s hot.”
After a couple moments of silence, she slowly turned her gaze to me and blinked as if she had just awakened from a dream. Or a nightmare. But at least she acknowledged my presence.
“Do you want my oatmeal? It’s hot,” I repeated as I gently moved the oatmeal towards her hoping she would take it. She slowly reached her hands out and took the tiny carton of oatmeal, blinking some more.
“Yes… um, yes. Thank you,” she muttered softly, staring at the little round container.
“You’re welcome, ” was all me and my awkwardness managed to spit out before I turned around and walked back to my car.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw her walking quickly across the parking lot, in fact, she was darn near speed-walking, oatmeal between two tightly clinging hands.
I don’t know where she was headed and I have no idea what her story is. I don’t even know if she really was hungry. Although, call it women’s intuition or whispers from heaven, I believe she was.
And I’m not telling you this story to pat myself on the back or give 3 cheers for Carey because in actuality it was just a tiny container of mediocre oatmeal and if I really was invested in helping this lady I probably should have stopped and asked her if she was safe or if she needed a ride or a coat. I didn’t give her my breakfast because I might get something in return. I did it because, like I said earlier, I would have been disappointed in myself all day if I hadn’t at least tried.
And what simpler thing to do than to feed someone who is hungry? Jesus did it all the time. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus and the Disciples feeding people. It’s a simple act of kindness that meets someone right at the point of their need. In fact it was Jesus that said this:
“...For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink”… “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?… “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:35-37
If there is anything I could pass on from my experience this morning, which obviously is burned into my brain at the moment, it would be this: I bet I walk by hundreds if not thousands of people every day, every week who are hungry. Hungry for food, hungry for love, hungry for hope. And maybe if I can remember to keep my eyes open and actually see them I might be a little more effective at sharing some of my food and love. And hope.
All that to share an oatmeal recipe! I really do have guilty feelings about not making my own dang oatmeal in the mornings, it’s just so convenient to pay Starbucks to do it for me. Guilt, guilt, major guilt. And shame.
For a long time now I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for steel cut oats because I’ve heard that 1) they are better than regular old rolled oats and 2) they are perfect for making a big batch ahead of time then feeding on them during the week. I think if I can manage to make a small pot of oats on Sunday, then portion them out and keep them in the refrigerator, I would have the perfect grab-n-go breakfast every morning. That’s the theory anyway, I’ll give it a go and report back.
Since it’s officially Fall I want to start out with the pumpkin version of this recipe, which you see above and you can find over at The Kitchn. The pumpkin gets saute’d lightly in butter to take some of the raw taste out of it, but other than that, it’s a pretty straightforward oatmeal recipe and there is a slow-cooker-version as well. I’ll also include the links at the bottom of this post.
So that’s it my friends. I hope you make delicious food this weekend, and I hope you find an opportunity to share a little of it with someone in need.
Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-baked-pu-159872
Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-steelcut-oats-for-134185