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The Broken Plates

News--Broken Plates

Her new dinner plates were bright and cheery, white with a blue rim and flowers in the center. Their clean potentiality seemed to represent the unfolding of a second chance for “Jeannette” and her son. They had recently transitioned from homelessness to being the first occupants of an affordable housing unit carved out in an otherwise upscale apartment building on the city’s gentrifying East Side. The granite countertops, the sunlight spilling through the tall windows, the cohort of smiling volunteers delivering furniture—all this seemed surreal to Jeannette, an hourly wager who for years had struggled to catch a lucky break.

She finally had a place to live and would soon have furniture of her own. Jeanette watched with a bemused smile as I and the other volunteers from St. Philip’s, serving as part of the Saturday work session with Hope to Home Furniture Resource, carried in chairs, lamps, and mattress sets and unpacked bins of household goods. Someone was stacking bowls, cups, and plates on the kitchen counter. But when the last two plates came out of the box, they were found to be broken.

Until that moment,  Jeannette’s dark brown eyes had been alight with wonder and gratitude. Upon seeing the chards of china, Jeanette drew in her breath. Her face crumpled. Now she would have only four dinner plates for herself, her son, and a small congregation of nieces and nephews. That moment of disappointment felt larger than the loss of two plates; the shattered pottery insidiously suggested that this single mom would never escape the pain of her past regrets and ill-fated choices, that even in the midst of her blessings, she would still experience brokenness.

But the Lord was teed up to deliver a different message, one of redemption, of being remade into wholeness. And since He knows the future, He had started the sequence of events several days earlier when Becky Barber cast an eye around the pantry at her husband’s golf business, the Links at Stono Ferry. For some reason, a small stack of cornflower blue plates jumped out at her.

These don’t belong here, Becky thought. They aren’t  like the rest of the china. When Becky asked about the oddball plates, the chef waved them off dismissively. Soon Becky had moved the stack into the back of her SUV. Later in the week, Becky packed her car with an assortment of additional household goods destined for the Hope to Home warehouse. The items were unloaded quickly on Saturday before Becky and her youngest son, Bowen, set out as part of the enthusiastic crew who would help outfit four homes for families in need. Jeanette’s place was the first stop.

When Becky saw the broken plates, a light bulb flashed in her mind. She remembered placing the cornflower plates into her car, but  she did not recall seeing them come out. Soon she was outside on the street, lifting the tailgate and scanning the SUV’s storage area. No plates were in sight. And yet ... there was a lump under a white throw rug tossed in the back. Becky lifted the rug’s corner. The perky blue plates appeared, as if waiting for their cue to take center stage. Soon Becky was back upstairs in Jeannette’s kitchen, placing four plates on top of the stack. They blended into an attractive mix-and-match set.

Jeannette beamed at how quickly the problem had been resolved, almost like magic. A moment later, her son came running out of his bedroom toward his mom. Volunteers had set up a twin bed for him and made it up with every little boy’s dream: blue Star Wars sheets. The eight-year-old hugged the pillow to his chest, his arms wrapped around the galactic scene; the dreamy look on his small face conveyed that he could hardly believe this was happening to him.