Mom wiped her hands on a as she looked out the kitchen window. “There’s the bus.” She stepped down into the living room and sighed as she watched the kids jump off the bus—the same bus that had dropped me and the other high school students off an hour earlier. “Here comes Sam* again.” Her shoulders raised and dropped, forcing her breath out in a puff. “I don’t think I can stretch supper another night for him. There’s barely enough for the eight of us as it is.” Dad was building his own business, and we had a tight budget.
I glanced up from my chemistry book. “Where is his mother?” I asked with an accusing tone.
“I hear she has a new boyfriend.” The sound of the bus rumbling away was followed by the front door blasting open, allowing my two younger brothers and Sam to tumble into the living room.
“Hi, boys!” Mom said brightly, hugging all three. “How was your day?”
Danny plopped his books on the floor beside me and with both hands tossed my hair like a salad. I grabbed one wrist and tickled the ribs beneath it. At his cry for help, the other two blindsided me. Soon the free-for-all spilled to the middle of the family room. I crawled to the couch, gathered my books, and moved down the hall of our one-level home to my own room.
Close to suppertime, Mom knocked on my door. “Can you come set the table, please?”
“Sure,” I answered, unfolding my legs and swinging them over the side of the bed. I set my literature book down. Mom came in and sat beside me.
“I can’t decide what to do about Sam,” she said quietly. She rubbed her chapped knuckles with her thumb. “He really can’t keep coming here every day after school. I have enough confusion, not to mention the extra food.” The crack of a bat sounded in the side yard. Cheers erupted. I could hear that my sisters, home from marching band practice, had joined the game.
I stood in front of her, arms akimbo. “He is not your responsibility. You’ll just have to tell him it’s time to go home.”
Darkness gathered around the house. I switched on the light over the kitchen table while Mom went to call the other kids. As they clamored inside, Mom touched Sam on the shoulder.
“Sam, it’s time for you to go home now.” She looked into his eyes and spoke softly. Sam turned his face away. With a nod he glanced across the hay fields to where his tiny house sat in blackness a mile away. “If I run through the field instead of going by the road, I can make it before dark,” he said, more to himself than to anyone else. He started down the steps. “’Bye, thanks,” he called over his shoulder.
“Wait,” Mom called, “I’ll drive you...” Sam didn’t hear. He was already running across the yard.
Dad came home and we gathered around the table more quietly than usual. Dad agreed Mom had done the right thing. Silverware scraped plates.
A metallic tapping sounded from my brother’s butter knife bumping off the table. “Sam could eat half of my food.”
“You need your food to grow right,” Dad said. Then his frown changed to a smile, “But it’s generous of you to offer.”
After the kitchen was clean, Mom and Dad went to their easy chairs to read the paper. The rest of the us scattered around on the couch and the floor. We heard a scuffle outside, then the door flew open. Sam ran to my mother, fell to the floor in front of her, laid his head in her lap, and cried. Mom stroked his sleek brown hair, saying, “Hush, now, hush,” in soothing tones. The rest of us stared, dumbfounded.
He tried to speak, but his chest heaved several times with each intake of air, and his breath came out in spurts. “I-I-I’m sorry. I know I’m supp-pposed to be at home, but it’s scary there at night when I’m alone.”
He grabbed Mom’s pant leg in front of her shin and clutched it.
She rubbed his back. “It’s okay, honey. Don’t worry.”
“I kept hearing things. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore. I ran out of the house and across the fields.”
“In the dark?” one of my brothers whispered.
Mom sniffed and wiped her eyes. Dad seemed pretty choked up, too. “Have you eaten?” he asked.
Sam sat up and looked at him. “Yes, I had a can of peaches.”
“Peaches?” Mom looked at Dad with one of those silent communications.
“Well, yeah, that’s what I always eat when Mom isn’t home. All I have to do is open the can and eat them.”
Mom shuddered. Her jaw set. She stood, pulling Sam with her. “You come to the kitchen with me.” She sat him down at the head of the table and made him a sandwich with the last of the chicken while my brothers opened a jar of applesauce. I heated some peas on the stove and cleaned him a carrot. Sam sat with his hands folded, eyes wide.
“After you eat we’ll drive to your place for your clothes and toothbrush,” Mom said. “And leave a note for your mom to let her know where you are.” She turned to the sink and I heard her mutter in disgust, “Whenever she gets home and if she bothers to look.”
With a flourish she presented the meal to Sam on her good china. His eyes filled with tears again. We all stood around him. Dad said, “Let’s pray.” He asked a blessing on the food and Sam.
When Sam finished, Dad put his arm around Mom. “Sam,” he said, “you are welcome here anytime.”
“For any meal,” Mom added.
My brother opened his mouth, but Mom cut him off with a glance and added, “God will provide what we need. I should have trusted Him before.”
Sam spent many hours at our house and consumed plenty of meals. We never went hungry. God did provide for our needs. When Sam was with us, he had a look of comfortable contentment. Eventually, he moved to another state with his dad and stepmother.
Years later, Mom and I saw Sam’s stepmother at a craft demonstration. When Mom asked about Sam, the stepmother answered sarcastically, “Oh, he’s into this Jesus thing. It’s almost all he wants to talk about.”
“That’s wonderful!” Mom bubbled. We grinned at each other.
“Well, I guess. His father and I don’t really believe that stuff.”
“He’s doing well then?”
“Sure. He’s one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. He loves his job and helps kids in a gym.”
Later, as we drove home, I thought of Matthew 10:42. “Mom, remember how Jesus said when we feed someone or give them drink or take them in, we do it for Him?” Mom nodded.
“You did it.”
Now I am the mother of four. Often when my children want to invite friends to our home, I am rushed and tired. The thought of filling one more empty tummy plus the extra noise and confusion makes me sigh.
One evening one of our farm helpers told me his mom was picking him up at 5:30, so he wouldn’t be eating supper with us. I was glad—that night we had just enough for our family.
Some of us had filled our plates when the farmhand came into the kitchen. “Mom is here, but we aren’t going straight home. May I please have something to eat?” he asked.
I eyed the barbecued beef croissants with cheddar cheese and figured we could spare one along with some vegetables and baked apples. “Sure,” I said while I filled a paper plate for him to take with him.
Like Oliver Twist, he asked, “More, please?”
He was looking at the croissants. I knew three more people had to be fed, including myself, and that he would be home soon, where his mother would feed him again. I’d like to say I graciously offered this hardworking young man my portion, but instead I told him that we had not all had our servings. The minute he left, I felt guilty. Of course when everyone was full, one croissant was left. I hadn’t remembered the lesson my mom modeled for me. I had to ask the farmhand’s forgiveness, which he readily gave.
The next time I hope I will remember the benefit to one small boy through my mother’s kindness and say, “Sure, have all you want. God will provide!
Not his real name”