It is always around this time of year that I look back at our winter in France.
We were privileged to enjoy several trips through the years, however winter was
unlike no other time.
We were lucky enough to be stationed in Germany at the same time family friends were stationed nearby. We travelled together several times once even for the men to teach at a family conference in the Bavarian region.
One particular trip we took together was to a Christmas Market to Strasbourg, France. It was cold and a bit windy. We were all bundled up. My feet were cold from walking on the pavement and cobble stones in the town. When you ducked under an awning of a shopkeeper you could feel the warmth of the little space heaters. No where near warm enough to take off your gloves, just warm enough to want to stay a bit and look at the goods and ornaments for sale.
They have two children as do we. Being the “good” mom’s our goal first was always to keep the kids fed and safely within our reach. I was always figuring out to feed them before an outing so no one was hungry and grumpy. This trip was no different. Snacks in the car and food when we got to our destination. I usually ate then. For some reason, I did not.
Once walking through the many shops and being fascinated with the town’s decorations and smelling all the wonderful warm food smells, I reached my limit. I wanted something to eat. Just a little something. I saw a stall with a woman cooking crepes right there. You could see the steam coming off the iron. She was bundled up in coat and scarf and was working away. You could smell the batter beginning to cook just as she poured it onto the hot surface. Most of you know, I am not a big fan of chocolate, however, Nutella is a whole other story. I ordered (well, Mr. Right ordered in French) a Crepe filled with melted Nutella. It was done. She put it onto a plate and dusted with powdered sugar. There was a plastic white spoon. Mr. Right handed it to me. He paid and we ushered the kids and family off and on our way. I was behind everyone. I was doddling and walking a bit slow. I could
feel the warmth through my glove as I held the plate. I tried the plastic fork. I really did. It just wasn’t going to work. I took off one glove and picked up the
crepe and took that first wonderful & warm delicious bite. I sank my front teeth into the tender dough. I could just begin to taste the heavenly goodness about to lay upon my tongue. Oh my, how lucky was I?
In a flash, it was gone. WHAT? Yep, right in the middle of the perfect Christmas market in the middle of Strasbourg, a person begging for food, grabbed my plate and snatched away my crepe right as I took that first bite. I stopped and was stunned. Shocked really. I started to cry. My family and friends were walking ahead and did not know what had happened. Our friend, John is pretty darn tall, I could see him above the crowd. My eyes followed him. Pretty soon, Mr. Right turned to check on me. He saw I was crying. He came back in an instant. Once I gulped and sniffed and cried and told him my “horrid” ordeal. He said well, “guess they were more hungry than you”. I had lost my appetite.
We went about the rest of the day. In case you didn’t know I live in a bubble. I have never been so hungry to steel food from someones mouth. I have never gone without. As much as I tried, I could not and still can not get that person out of my mind.
However, over the years, their face has faded. Another story that day has replaced some of the memory.
We were at the very end of the market, crossing over a little bridge to go back to our warm and comfortable cars. We were all chilled. It was enough for one day.
As we walked across, there were ladies standing on the side, begging for anything. I saw Mr. Right reach into his pockets and give everything he had. Period. Every single French Frank and coin he had. The person said God Bless You in french. Speaking french my husband said God Bless you in return. I had never seen him give everything he had at once to one person before. Why did he chose that one person in particular? I felt like I had intruded somehow. It seemed like a private moment to me. I cast my eyes downward. When I looked down, I saw her feet. Not her shoes or her socks, her feet. They were purple and swollen. She was begging with nothing on her feet.
When we got into the comfortable van and turned on the heat. The boys said nothing. Not a word. None of us said a word. We sat and started to thaw out and warm up. I don’t remember many shops that day. I don’t really remember too much except my two stories of beggars.
Maybe we were meant to go to that market? Without saying a word, our children learned to give to the poor and hungry. No doubt about it. No questions asked. They learned what grace is. They learned how to treat our fellow man.
In one remarkable day, remarkable moment really, our family was in the middle of God’s grace.
Dieu vous benissent