Making a Difference
Sep 1, 2011 1520
Making a Difference
—Ruthie Jacobsen with Rodney Griffen
From her little apartment window, Janelle watched as the car pulled away from the curb taking her parents to the airport and then back to Tennessee. As she looked out the window at her neighbourhood, at 5:30 in the morning, all she could see were lights and shapes in her part of the huge city of Boston. She felt very small, insignificant, alone and just a little frightened.
‘What now, God?’ she asked, as she burst into tears. This is my twenty-fourth birthday, and I’ve never had to spend my birthday alone!’ She couldn’t remember feeling so isolated from everything and everyone that was dear to her. Janelle sobbed as she thought about how long it would be before she would be with her family again. After washing her face, she looked into the mirror—the usually happy and very pretty eyes were not sparkling now. All her life she had dreamed of making a difference, accomplishing something significant for God. But how? On this bleak day, the chances seemed remote.
In exhaustion, Janelle finally slept, and as she slept, she dreamed. In her dream she sensed God’s presence. He had a mission for her. He said, ‘Janelle, I want you to go out and buy a dozen of the most beautiful red roses you can find and then give them away—one at a time to people who need a special gift from me today.’
When Janelle awoke, the dream was still such a reality in her mind that she couldn’t forget it. It seemed as though it could be a grand adventure, but with one major complication. The money she would need to purchase the roses was already designated—she had planned to buy some New Balance running shoes because she really needed them. She tried to argue with God, but it was useless. His plan was bigger. She knew it was something he was asking her to do now.
She finally found a dozen roses, hidden behind some other flowers at a grocery store. And they were gorgeous. Janelle’s enthusiasm for this ‘project with God’ grew as she paid for the roses, they cost the entire fifty dollars she had been saving for shoes. But she was committed and now there was no looking back. As she left the store, Janelle seemed impressed that she should take the subway and look there for the faces of people who seemed to need God’s special touch.
It was exhilarating to watch as she placed a rose in the hand of a tired little mother, then a homeless man. Each time Janelle would say, ‘This is a very special day for me, and I want you to have this rose’. She wanted each one to somehow know, that God was showing them his love.
One man, when given his rose, clutched it to his chest lovingly. Each person took the rose, some with tears of gratitude. Janelle was amazed to watch as God went with her to reach people whom he loved. In downtown Boston this was an amazing experience! Some were surprised, but glad for the rose and the reminder of God’s love. Janelle got off the subway and looked for people at the station or on the street who seemed to be God’s ‘rose people’.
With only one rose left, she found herself across the street from a large hospital. So she crossed the street and went inside. Walking down the corridor to the nearest nurses’ station, she found a nurse there and asked, ‘Is there someone here I could see for just a moment? I have a rose I’d like to give to someone.’
The nurse seemed very glad to see Janelle and walked with her down the hall. On the way, she spoke about a young man, who, the physician had told them, would probably not live through the day. The patient’s family hovered about the bed, speaking Spanish, a language Janelle didn’t understand. She went to the bed, smiled and placed the flower in his hands, with the same words she had already used eleven times that day.
There seemed to be a hush in the room and Janelle knew that God had been leading her, not only throughout her exciting undertaking, but also to this very place. To her surprise, tears ran from the young patient’s eyes. In his weakness, he tried to hold and smell the rose, more grateful than she expected, Janelle watched in awe.
As she left the room, the translator who had been in the room walked out with her and in utter disbelief asked her, ‘How did you happen to come here with the rose? How did you know about Carlos?’
Janelle had no recourse but to tell her the whole story. She told about the loneliness and devastation she’d felt when her parents had left. She mentioned the tears, the dream and even the argument with God over whether to buy the shoes or the roses.
The translator ’s face paled as she heard Janelle’s story. Smiling, the translator said, ‘I’m a part-time volunteer here. I come to translate for patients who cannot speak English. Today I asked Carlos if there was one last wish, one last thing anyone could do for him. He has a brain tumour and everyone knows he was fighting a losing battle for his life. His only request was for a rose. No one seemed to know why. But in the busyness and all, I forgot about the rose.’ She cried with Janelle as they both realised the greatness of a God who loves us enough to send roses.
Then the translator added, ‘And Janelle, don’t worry about the shoes. I’m a vice president of the New Balance Shoe Company here in Boston. You’ll never need to buy any more New Balance shoes. Let that be my gift to you and to Carlos.’
Janelle walked out of the hospital on a cloud. She had wondered what God was calling her to do with her life. She wanted a mission. She wanted to know that she was doing what he was leading her to do. As she got on the subway to return to her apartment, she silently spoke with God about what he had done for her that day. She prayed, ‘Lord, this was such an amazing experience. I want to do this more. I want to reach people who are hurting, who need to have the sweet assurance of your love. Are you asking me to be a hospital chaplain? I think I would rather do that than anything!’
And so Janelle, through her own pain, learned that God would use her to reach others. Because of her loneliness, she could touch someone else who needed warmth, a friend, and a reminder of God’s love.
Making a difference. Isn’t that what life is really all about?
Quoted from Ruthie Jacobsen with Rodney Griffen, God Wants to Hear you Sing! (Ruthie Jacobsen, 2009). This book can be purchased on Amazon, or go to the website:
You can get it with the CD. Story used with the permission of the author.