I really don’t consider myself a generous person, but maybe that’s because when I think of generosity, I’m usually thinking about money. But we can be generous with other things as well. And one thing we all have is time—a precious commodity. Too often, we tell ourselves we need to hold onto things, time included.
But I could not be generous apart from God.
The phone rang some years ago, in a time when telemarketers were not overwhelming our lines yet. I know that because I ran to get the phone.
“I’m looking for Pete Peterson,” the caller said, “and I was wondering if you happen to know him. I’m going down the list in the phone book of all the Petersons hoping that maybe I’ll reach Pete or at least someone who may know him.”
This was when people still used phone books, too.
The caller identified herself as Shirley and she continued. But while she was talking, I could hear another voice—a voice I had come to recognize very well, though it is not an audible one.
The still small voice said, Stay on the phone.
And so I did. Was I aware of why I needed to stay on the phone? No. But when I believe God is prompting me to do something, I am learning to just obey his voice.
I learned that Shirley was hoping to have a birthday party for her husband who was in his eighties. And somehow they had lost touch with their close family friend, Pete. Shirley knew that it would mean a lot if Pete could be at the party.
“Have you tried checking online to find your friend?” I asked.
“I’m not very technical as far as the computer goes, but my daughter did try for me with no luck.”
I could relate to Shirley in that sense. I often needed help myself in that area, but I was sure willing to try.
“If you like, I’d be glad to try to look online for Pete.”
That simple offer touched Shirley. To me, it was not a big deal, but to her, it was huge.
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” she said.
Once again, I heard the nudge, Stay on the phone.
Shirley relaxed more and more, and I sensed an urgency to get Pete to that party.
“Shirley, may I pray for you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she responded quietly.
And so I prayed that somehow Pete Peterson would be found and that he could be invited to the party.
When I finished, Shirley was crying.
“That is the first time anyone ever prayed for me.” Shirley said. “I need to tell you why this is so important. My husband has cancer and I’m afraid he’s not doing well. This may be the last birthday he has here.”
My heart hurt as she relayed his journey and how his cancer battle was raging.
I really cared for this stranger on the phone and knew this call was no accident. God had orchestrated this.
We talked a few more minutes. Shirley gave me her number and I assured her I would call her if I was successful.
“You are my angel,” Shirley said. “Why are you helping me?”
“I’m a Christ follower and I believe God wants me to help you.”
“You are an angel,” Shirley repeated, as we said our goodbyes.
I searched the internet and each day, I’d pray, “God, you know where Pete Peterson is. Will you help me find him?”
One day turned into two and then three, four. Finally, I was talking with a friend on the phone, sharing this story.
Lois said, “I know a Pete Peterson.”
“Did he work in an antique shop?” I asked, thankful I knew that much about him.
“I think he did,” Lois said.
And then the critical question. How did he spell his last name?
I felt disheartened when Lois told me it was “s-e-n” at the end.
But even though that did not match, I thought, Maybe I should try and call this Pete. What did I have to lose? Some time?
I prayed as his number rang, asking God to give me peace as my heart was beating rapidly.
Moments later I relayed the story to this person on the phone, thankful he gave me some of his time.
After a long pause, he said, “I’m the one you’re looking for.”
I’m pretty sure he was crying. I know I was, as I imagined how happy Shirley and her husband would be.
Once again I was waiting for Shirley to pick up the phone. The words rushed out of my mouth and she started crying as well.
“You are an angel,” she said. “My angel.”
Shirley had the birthday party for her husband, and he was so thrilled to be reunited with his friend. Shirley contacted me and asked if we could meet in person. I walked into McDonald’s with no clue what Shirley looked like, but I knew we’d figure it out.
A smiling woman approached me and asked, “Are you Anne?”
“Yes,” I said.
“May I give you a hug?” Shirley asked.
So there we were, sharing a hug. These two women who were strangers except for God’s intervention.
After a few moments of chatting, Shirley placed a gift bag before me.
“This is for you,” she said, beaming.
“Oh, you didn’t need to do that,” I said.
“Yes, I did,” she smiled back.
Carefully, lifting out the box from the gift bag, I opened it and lifted out the most beautiful porcelain angel I’ve ever seen.
“I collect angels,” Shirley told me. “I don’t even have this one, but I had to get it for you.”
I see my angel every time I walk past my china cabinet, and I smile and think of Shirley.
I’m thankful God nudged me to give my time to this sweet woman. And all I had to do was listen to that still, small voice.
Sometimes I wonder what we miss by keeping our hands closed. This is a poem God once gave me as I thought about what we withhold. Generosity is not possible for me without God. But with God, all things are possible.
Open Your Hand
What is that you are holding
in your hand, my child,
in your fist that is closed ever tight?
What is that you are purposely
keeping from me,
for you feel that you have the right?
Don’t you know as you grow
in your walk with me,
I can see even things that you hide?
Oh if you only knew what’s in store for you,
you would open your hand so wide.