Her Whole Life in Her Suitcase
While on home assignment, my family and I were on our way to Pittsburgh to take advantage of what seemed to be a beautiful sunny day. As we reached the top of the big hill by our house, we noticed a young woman lugging a large suitcase up the “mountain.” It was evidently very heavy, and she was clearly struggling to drag it behind her, even with the wheels.
“She needs help,” I said to my husband, Ben.
We sat at the light with only a few seconds to make a choice.
Would we choose to carry on our way, pretend that we didn’t even notice the poor woman, get on the turnpike, and enjoy our day as planned with our two boys in Pittsburgh? Or would we go out of our way to turn the car around and ask if we could help her?
“Well, we know what we have to do,” Ben said.
When our boys asked us what we were doing, we quickly explained to them that we had to do what Jesus would do—help a neighbor in need.
After turning around at the light, we pulled our car over on the side of the street where the woman was walking. She was young, perhaps in her early 20s, and clearly in distress from hauling the heavy luggage up and down the rural Pennsylvania hills.
“It looks like you could use some help,” Ben said as he rolled down his window.
She nodded and timidly said, “Yes.”
“Where are you headed?” he asked.
“Not too far away,” she replied and gave us the address.
Ben got out and opened the trunk of the car to place her luggage inside. “We have a large van with plenty of room for your suitcase,” he said gently, trying to make the woman feel at ease.
Our boys scrambled into the backseat of the van to make room for her to sit in the middle row. I got out of the car and extended my hand, “Hi, my name’s Renée. What’s your name?”
“Monica,” she said, looking down in shame. She got into the car and we went on our way.
I knew that we wouldn’t have a lot of time together. Her destination was just minutes away by car—though much longer on foot.
We had another choice to make. Would we remain silent, drop her off at her destination, and never see her again? Or would we dare to use these precious minutes to have a conversation with Monica that could have an eternal impact on her soul?
“Is your whole life in your suitcase?” I asked Monica.
“Pretty much,” she said.
Through our questions, she went on to explain that someone had dropped her off at the gas station down the road. When we picked her up, she had already walked quite a distance with a heavy suitcase. It was obvious that her heart was beating hard and fast, and I could see the sweat on her brow and forehead.
Under her breath, she quietly muttered, “Thank you so much for helping me.” She repeated it several times.
I asked if she was in danger, and she reassured us that she was not. In answer to more of our questions, she explained that she was headed someplace where she would be taken care of.
“How many cars drove by and didn’t stop?” I asked.
Monica replied that many had driven by that morning, but no one had stopped.
“You may feel that no one sees you—that no one notices you,” I said. “But God does. He sees you, and He loves you. When we saw you, we knew in our hearts that He wanted us to stop and help you.”
I shared about our faith in Christ and asked her if we could pray for her. Monica told us she had a five-year-old daughter who was living with her parents. We prayed, asking God for help and strength to walk the difficult road ahead of her and for His blessing on both of them.
“You carry a heavy story in your suitcase, don’t you?” I asked. Monica nodded her head as she indicated which street to turn on. She showed us the white sign that indicated the name of the detox center where she would live for the next season of her life.
As she requested, we dropped her off at the driveway entrance. Ben and I got out of the car, hugged her, and told her again that God sees, knows, and loves her. We gave her our names and phone number and told her to call us if she needed anything.
Ben gave Monica her suitcase, and we watched her climb up the steep driveway, dragging her heavy baggage—which contained her whole life—behind her.
Perhaps the decision we made that day to notice Monica will make an eternal difference in her life. Perhaps stopping to pick her up added a little piece of God’s love to her suitcase. Perhaps Jesus will one day be a part of her life story because we dared to make that choice.
Recently, I heard the song, “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns. It reminded me of Monica’s story.
Under the shadow of our steeple, with all the lost and lonely people, searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me—does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
We’ve all seen these people—the lost, discarded, “invisible” souls that Jesus came to seek and save. If they are so important to Him, shouldn’t they also be to us? The next time you see someone walking down the road, struggling to drag their life story up the hill, listen for Jesus in your split-second decision. It could make all the difference for all eternity.
Illustration by Kenneth Crane