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Carrying umbrellas for others


Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.

Sitting at the front desk, I look up. Through the plate-glass window, I see them. An elderly woman is being escorted by a tall gentleman. He is carrying an umbrella, carefully shielding her from the falling rain. I hop up to get a closer look. He helps her in as the driver (her husband?) watches. The car door closes, and the man and his umbrella, they disappear.

Rainstorms, the weak, and those who carry umbrellas.

All week long, this image has lingered in my mind. And all week long, I’ve been pondering a stranger’s kindness and what it means to carry umbrellas.

“Into every life some rain must fall,” sang Ella Fitzgerald, “but too much is falling in mine.” Oh, how I know the truth of her words. One cannot go through life in this world without some of that rain fallin’ down. No one escapes it, and it feels like far too much.

Whether it’s illness, or poverty, or depression, or divorce, or job loss, it comes. Through the vagaries of life or poor choices of our own, there it comes again, first a pitter-patter and then a full-on torrent. There comes that rain.

Just the other night, we spoke with a neighbor and friend. She told us how one day while she was out walking, she encountered a young woman on the side of the road in the stifling heat. She was dressed in jeans and a hoodie with two large bags beside her. She was simply sitting on the edge of that country road.

Curious, the neighbor stopped to see if she was okay. She wasn’t, not really, but the only help she wanted was a ride to somewhere far away. “I cannot take you there,” said our friend, “but I can get you some water.” And she did. She returned with bottles of water, a box of crackers, and some fruit to sustain her on her journey. She promised to pray for her in the days and weeks ahead, and then she told that troubled girl goodbye. Just there in the heat and the dust, she raised a small umbrella.

Several years ago, when a son was lost on the streets, out of his mind on drugs and rage, my husband went to search for him. Heartbroken at our son’s plight, he combed the homeless encampments in the searing heat. But he did not search alone. A close friend dropped everything and went with him. His presence brought strength to my husband, and courage. In the midst of a personal storm, his friendship was a large umbrella. It was a sacrificial gift, and we were grateful.

As I began to speak and write about our son’s journey, I noticed an interesting phenomenon—there were many, many other parents walking the same rocky road. They just weren’t talking about it. Hearing our story gave them courage to come forward and to admit that they, too, were drownin’ in that rain. That’s when I started the first list. I called it the Prodigal Prayer Project, and as it came to my mind, I would pray. Sometimes I prayed for the kids. Other times I prayed for the parents. It was my way of raising an umbrella for others.

“Into each rain, some life must fall.” These words from Smokey Robinson ring, bell like, in my heart.

The truth is that all around us are people in the thick of their own storms. Beneath every roof we pass on our nightly walk, there are troubles. Behind many smiling faces, there is pain. Often, the exterior hides what the interior holds, and so it behooves us to be kind. To be kind, and to listen for that silent prompting, the divine and holy nudge.

One day as I was walking into work, I passed a young Amish woman sitting on the steps of the local library. I had just gone by, but something made me stop. I turned around and went back. Looking up into her face, I said, “What is your name?”

“Jane,” she answered.

“I’m Rhonda. It’s just nice to see your face today.”

Like that, the radiance of the morning sun shone upon her face. Everything about her was smiling. The blue eyes watching me were alight with life and joy.

“Thank you,” she said to my departing back. “Have a good day!”

I will never know what was happening in her world, and I don’t have to. I only know this—that it was a privilege to bring life and happiness in obedience to the gentle touch of the unseen hand upon my back.

“Into each heart some tears must fall, but someday the sun will shine.” Ella Fitzgerald sang that, too.

When we offer a simple kindness in the way in which we’re equipped to give it, we are holding umbrellas and bringing the sun. Do not let the size of your offering deter you from sharing it. Just give it, believing that it will be light and love and hope and shade for the one to whom it is given. What a beautiful life, being the holders of umbrellas for others.

You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom on the newly-syndicated James Golden Show live every Saturday or on your favorite podcast platform.

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