I became an unwed mom in the summer of 1980 at 23 years of age. Then my babysitter quit abruptly, leaving me stunned and stranded. I depended on the childcare in order to work my full time job, my only means of support. I drove to my mother’s house and asked if she’d watch my baby until I found another babysitter. Our relationship had been strained as far back in my early childhood as I could remember, but I really believed she’d help me out considering the urgency of the situation. Of all people, I felt sure she would understand. Her mother helped her care for me when I was a baby and she was an unwed mother.
My mother hesitated when I told her that for safety’s sake, the baby had to be kept in the carseat/carrier if she had to go somewhere in the car. It was the law. She wasn’t convinced. Desperate for her help I offered to pay her what I paid the sitter. She quickly thought it over, and then refused.
“I like my life the way it is. I come and go as I please.” My mother glared at the infant carrier as if it was a mysterious contraption. “You insist on having her in that. Strapping her in and having to take it places is just too complicated.”
Dismayed by my mother’s lack of empathy, I struggled to make sense of why she would not help her only child at a time like this. I rushed to Mrs.Hedley’s house, pleading with God for a miracle as I drove. I had met her when I was 19 years old, after her son and I began dating. Mr. and Mrs. Hedley took interest in their kids in a way I had never experienced. This behavior was foreign to me, not at all how I had been raised. Mrs. Hedley had been very kind to me. She was my only example of a loving mother-figure. She prayed for me and treated me with the same kindness I saw her treat her own children. I became a Christian shortly after I began dating her son. Her house was a home-away-from-home for me.
After several years, her son and I broke up, but I still kept in touch with Mrs.Hedley. It had been a while since I had seen her. I don’t know what I expected. I also worried about what she’d think of me with a baby, but deep inside I felt sure she would care.
Her husband answered the door, eyed my puffy eyes and tear-streaked face. He explained the situation. “She’s had surgery and needs complete bed rest.”
“Please, I need to talk to her.”
“She’ll see you. Come on back,” he said returning to the living room. I walked the familiar hallway to her bedroom, restraining tears. Mrs. Hedley was propped up in bed.
“Well, hello there! How’s that baby? Sit down.” With a friendly, broad smile, she patted the lavender, satiny bedspread. The sound of her cheerful voice soothed me instantly. I placed the baby carrier on the bed, sat down and immediately began bawling. Grief gushed out like water released from a broken hydrant. I told her everything. I had no where to turn and feared losing my job. I felt betrayed by the world. Deeply moved, she listened quietly and handed me a box of tissues. I cried until the salty tears ran dry.
She sighed. “Strict doctor’s orders,” she said gently touching her abdomen. “I have to stay in bed for several weeks.” She lovingly caressed my baby’s tiny hand. “But I don’t see why I couldn’t watch this little one. My goodness, it doesn’t take much to feed and care for this tiny infant. If I need help, Stu can lend a hand.” She said looking up at her husband.
She asked me to step out of the room while she and her husband discussed the matter. I paced the living room silently praying, waiting for their response with my stomach in knots. I could hardly stand the suspense. Minutes later Mr. Hedley called me back into the room.
“We have chatted and believe it could work,” he said with a big smile.
A monstrous bolder rolled off my shoulders. I felt deliriously happy and wanted to laugh, cry and scream all at the same time, but I also felt strangely saddened and confused. I was struck by the dichotomy. How was it that my own mother treated my urgent need like a mere inconvenience? Why couldn’t she see how unsafe it was to simply lay the baby on the seat of her car, risking an injury or death during a sudden stop or accident? She didn’t want to deal with safely strapping her newborn granddaughter or wanted to take care of her, even for a short time to help me out.
Mrs. Hedley immediately recognized the crisis and offered to help me, sacrificing her own needs for my baby and me. This precious lady had just had a complete hysterectomy, a procedure that was considered major surgery back in those days. Yet, she was willing to go through whatever it took to help me at such a critical time. I don’t know what I would have done had she not opened her heart to me. I had been raised in a painfully cold and calloused home and had no idea what real love looked like. She was a good example.
The love of God came to me through this willing and vulnerable servant. Mrs.Hedley became a great example of Christianity by personifying the hands and feet of Jesus. It has been over thirty years since that day and I am still overwhelmed with emotion as I write this. I will never forget her unselfish kindness. To date, we stay in touch and she still sends me birthday and holiday cards.
There are two Bible verses that ring true in my mind when I think of Mrs. Hedley’s heart.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: To visit orphans and widows in their trouble.
Matthew 25:35 ‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;’
In many ways, I was that orphan greatly in need of help. Mrs. Hedley opened her heart and cared for one, or two, of the least of those, the very people Jesus referred to in the scriptures in Matthew 25: 35-46.
Who is that orphan, widow or neighbor in your life? Is there anyone you may know needing the loving touch of Christ through you?
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian ©2013