Authors: Neta Jackson
Tags: #ebook, #book
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Â© 2003 by Neta Jackson. The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down Â© 2004 by Neta Jackson.
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâelectronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any otherâexcept for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Scripture quotations are taken from the following:
The CEV Â© 1991 by the American Bible Society. Used by permission.
The Holy Bible, NIV. Â© 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The NKJV, Â© 1979, 1980, 1982, 1990 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.
The Holy Bible, NLT, Â© 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.,Wheaton, Illinois. All rights reserved.
The King James Version of the Bible.
“If Not for Grace,” written by Clint Brown. Copyright Â© 2000 Tribe Music Group (administered by PYPO Publishing) BMI.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, businesses, organizations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
ISBN-13: 978-1-59554-474-2 (SE)
Printed in the United States of America
07 08 09 10 11 QW 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my sisters in the women's Bible study
of Reba Place Church
âyou know who you are!â
who loved me anyway and stretched my faith.
And to Dave
âbest friend, husband, writing partnerâ
who had the vision for this book in the first place
and believed in me in the process.
CHICAGO'S NORTH SIDEâ1990
soft mist clouded the windshield of the Toyota wagon, playing catch-me-if-you-can with the intermittent wipers. Apartment buildings and three-storied six-flats crowded the wet narrow street like great brick cliffs. The woman behind the wheel of the Toyota drove cautiously through the Rogers Park neighborhood of north Chicago, looking for Morse Avenue.
At least it wasn't the typical macho Chicago thunderstorm: blowing in on big winds, shaking the trees, darkening the skies.
Boom! Crash! Flash!
Sheets and sheets of rain . . . and then just as quickly rolling away, leaving puddles and sunshine. A midwestern girl at heart, she usually enjoyed a good storm.
But not today. She hated driving in a heavy rain, especially on unfamiliar city streets with her kids in the car.
Mist . . . swipe . . . mist . . .
the gentle rain softened even the rough edges of this Chicago neighborhood as she peered past the wipers looking for street signsâ
A dark blur rose up suddenly in front of the car through the thin film of mist. Startled, she stomped on the brake.
The clear windshield showed a dark bedraggled shapeâman? woman?â banging a fist on her hood. Heart pounding in her chest, the driver fumbled for the door locks.
Oh God, Oh God, what's happening?
â “Mom-meee!” A frightened wail from the car seat behind her stifled the woman's first instinct to pound on the horn.
“Shh. Shh. It's okay.” She forced her voice to be calm for the children's sake. “Someone walked in front of the car, but I didn't hit him. Shh. It's okay.” But she gripped the steering wheel to stop her hands from shaking.
With one final bang on the hood, the figure shoved its fists into the pockets of a frayed army jacket and shuffled toward the driver's-side window. The driver steeled herself, heart still racing. Now she was going to get yelled at. Or mugged.
But the person hunched down, tapped gently at the window, and whined, “Change, lady? Got any change?”
Anger and relief shredded her anxiety. Just a panhandler. A woman at that, surprisingly small and bony beneath the bulky army jacket and layers of scarves. But the nerve! Stopping her car like that!
The driver rolled down her window a mere crack.
“Mom! Don't!” commanded her five-year-old man-child in the backseat.
“It's okay. Give Blanky to your little sister.” She peered at the woman now standing just inches from her face. Dark-skinned, bug-eyed, the army jacket damp and limp, buttoned askew . . . the mist clung to the woman's uncombed nappy hair like shimmering glass beads.
“Got any change?” the panhandler repeated.
The driver channeled her voice into assertive disapproval. “You shouldn't jump in front of my car! I could have hit you.”
“Need food for my baby. And diapers,” said the woman stubbornly. She peered though the crack in the window into the backseat. Her voice changed. “You got kids?”
The driver was tempted to roll up the window and move on. Her family had made it a rule not to give money to panhandlers. Even a suburban mom from Downers Grove knew a dollar was more likely to find its way to the corner liquor store than be spent for bread and diapers.
But she hesitated, thinking of her two preschoolers in the backseat. What if the woman really
have kids who needed food and diapers?
Still she hesitated. Then an idea popped into her head. “Uh . . . I was just headed for Uptown Community Church on Morse Avenue.”
To pick up my husband,
she could have added. Uptown had invited men from several suburban churches to volunteer once a month in an “urban outreach” to homeless men and drug addicts. “If you stop in there, I'm sure somebody will help you.”
The woman, damp and glistening, shook her head. “Been there b'fore. Don't wanna wear out my welcome. Just a little change, lady? A dollar will do.”
If you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto Me.
The driver sighed. Life would sometimes be a lot simpler if years of Sunday school lessons didn't follow her around like Jiminy Cricket sitting on her shoulder. What would her husband do? After all, he came to this “outreach” today because he wanted to help people like this woman.
On impulse, she leaned over and pulled up the lock on the passenger side of the car. “Get in,” she said to the woman standing in the mist. “I'll take you to a grocery store.”
The panhandler scurried around and got in the car. She didn't put on the seat belt, and the driver tightened her mouth. She couldn't be this woman's keeper about
She turned and glared at her five-year-old before he opened his mouth again.
Now what? She had no idea where a grocery store was in this neighborhood! She'd passed the Rogers Park Fruit Market a few blocks back, but it probably didn't carry stuff like diapers. What she needed was a Jewel or Dominick's.
Or maybe her son was rightâthis was crazy, picking up this woman!
Then she saw it: Morse Avenue. She could ask at the church where to find a grocery store. Turning onto the busier street, full of small stores with security grids on the windows, she watched the door numbers slide by. There. She slowed beside the old two-story brick storefront that housed Uptown Community Church and turned off the ignition. The wipers died.
The woman in the passenger seat narrowed her eyes. “Thought we was goin' t' the store.”
“We are,” the driver chirped brightly, hopping out of the car. “I just have to let my husband know that I'll be a little late. Be right back.” She opened the back door. “Come on, kids.” Another encouraging look at the woman in the front seat. “I'll only take a minute.”