I’ve been asked to give the message this upcoming Sunday at Spiritual Soul Center and as I listened to Rev. Paula share yesterday on grace, this writing I did several years ago popped into my mind. Paula spoke of grace in terms of comparing ourselves to others (not grace), but how often we interpret grace that way. The thought of Ms. Gladys’ face, the situation and the smell came rushing into my memory yesterday during church and I wondered how she saw God’s grace in her moment of need? What I do know is that I can choose to BE grace for another – an example, a living bridge to the love of God for all God’s beloved children.

Downtrodden. By Meg McBride. Featured in Hope Rising published as a Lenten Reflection in 2017.

I’m a social worker who works in the hospital and helps patients who are experiencing homelessness. One day, I was called to the  emergency room to talk to Ms. Gladys. The nursing staff didn’t know how to handle her. Ms. Gladys was an older, frail, black woman who was dressed in a bright pink sweat suit  She lay there, crying… She smelled terrible and I realized that the smell was feces – she was covered in her own excrement. Why had no one on the hospital staff had offered to clean her up? She showed me her pants and underpanties that were stained brown as I struggled to hold back a choking feeling in my throat. As she revealed her skin under her clothing, I saw that her entire body was covered with scars.  She told me she had been in a fire and was burned over 90% of her body. She showed me her chest from which her breasts had been completely burned off. She showed me scars from her neck to her feet. 

The fire was why her bowels didn’t work anymore. She had to wear a colostomy bag that needed to be emptied often, but she had spent the previous night sitting outside on a curb because she had nowhere to go — she was homeless. The bag had burst open all over her. In the morning, someone found her and called 911. Here she was… still alone and still covered in waste. She reached out her hand and offered it to me… that hand covered in crap. Something Bigger than me said, “Take it.” As she held my hand, Ms. Gladys asked me, “Why did God let me survive that fire? What didn’t God just taken me then?” I had no words. I stood beside her, feeling her hand in mine, and cried with her…

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