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Beauty for Ashes

By Shari Crall

Beauty for ashes – God’s amazing alchemy. Dorothy Day wrote, “Speaking of Christ: He did not force anyone to believe . . . . He did not coerce anyone. He emptied himself and became a servant.”

Once, as I was getting off the freeway ramp by work, I gave a $10 bill to a man holding a sign. He was so happy and grateful and said it was enough to buy shoes and then he showed me the whole sole was gone from one shoe. He immediately folded his sign and began to limp, on the hot road, across the street, to get shoes. Traffic pushed me forward and I wanted to give him more or take him shopping for shoes, but the opportunity passed.

The next day he was there again. I rolled down my window and said, “Hey you got new shoes,” and I offered him a few dollars. He came toward me and said, “You see me. I was feeling invisible.” I said, “Yes! I see you! You’re not invisible!” His face scrunched and he said, “Someone spit on me.” He began to cry. He said, “I used to steal and rob but no more. Now I beg. I need to call my probation officer and tell him I’m drinking alcohol again. I’ll go to jail, but I need to call.”

By now he was full on crying and began to bless me, God bless me, thank me, wish me a blessed day. He was so sincere and I knew this was a blessing straight from God. Traffic again propelled me forward and I pulled across the street into a parking space to let it soak in.

This is how God has been with me in my life. Beauty for ashes over and over again. When I have been unseen, when I have been discouraged, when I have been in trouble, He has seen me. I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 5:45, “This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty . . . live out your God created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I am so grateful for the generosity and graciousness of God. May it shine through the difficulties and disparagements of this day, I pray, on you.

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About Shari Crall

Shari Crall is a native of the Chicago suburbs. She has lived her adult life in Southern California where she raised four children with her husband Chris. She recently retired from a career in social work. She holds a BA in political science from BYU and an MSW from SDSU. She spent over a decade writing a column for her local newspaper, titled The Crall Space. She has blogged for Segullah for several years and been published in LDS outlets like Exponent II, a BYU Women's Conference collection, and most recently in Living on the Inside of the Edge by author Christian Kimball.

3 thoughts on “Beauty for Ashes”

  1. I admire your ability to be charitable like this so much! In the city I live in, there are people at every off ramp begging, anywhere I walk, people with signs, multiple camps full of the homeless. I tell myself if I tried to give cash to even a few a day I would be broke very soon. Instead I pay tithing, help with service at the food shelter (pre COVID) and hope that it is enough. But when I read your story, I think maybe it is not enough. It is heartbreaking that in our land of plenty there is even one person who must beg to live. I know addiction can play a big part in this sad scene, but it makes me sorry and even guilty because I can't decide to give to one without being able to give to all. You seem to have this down. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh JP, I know what you mean. When work took me from the suburbs to the city, the need was overwhelming. I try to measure by what I can do, not with meeting what is needed. What is needed is beyond me. Sounds like your heart is really in it. I didn't write the piece to toot my own horn, rather, and maybe it was too hard to do with words, but to take the reader into that space where God is, and this was a mystical experience as this man blessed me. It was truly as the scripture says — if you have done it until the least of these, you have done it unto Me. It truly felt like I was receiving a direct blessing from God. It was transformative and a singular experience, unlikely to be repeated. Thanks for your comments. God bless!

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