Stories are powerful. They unite us. They move us. Stories are the gifts from the past that inspire the future. In my first blog post I shared that my friend Twila inspired the name of this blog. Today I want to share the incredible story of how I met the lovely Miss Twila Monet.
It was my day off. Martin Luther King Jr Day. Monday, January 15, 2018 and I must be honest, I was feeling very sorry for myself.
I had been under a lot of stress. Trouble in my relationship, challenges at work, difficulty with school and problems with my health. My mood was so down that I thought it best to channel the sage advice of Elle Woods.
So I did that, I went to the gym. I worked out. I had endorphins and I felt better! I said to myself “It’s Monday. I got up. I worked out. That’s plenty productive for 11am.” I felt so on top of things that I decided to call my mom on my drive home to share just how productive I was.
Now, my momma is an extremely demanding woman. I say that with a heart full of admiration. She challenges me. But boy does she challenge me!
“YES, BUT DID YOU PRAY?”
…. “well…not yet…but I…”
“GO DO THAT”
I was 2 minutes from home and a little annoyed, but I busted a quick U-Turn and went to St. Francis de Sales in Downtown Riverside where they have Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.
I sat down. I collected my thoughts and I prayed. I prayed for my family, my freinds, my leaders, my doctors and my teachers. I told God that I was sorry I didn’t pray enough, that I was stressed, that I was busy.
I was honest, bared my soul and prayed for myself. I told Gold that I felt alone in my anxiety and my sadness.
And then I said, “Sorry I havent read your Word Lord… I should buy a bible. I left my physical bible at my parents house and I always use my phone bible. Imma buy a bible”
And then I clicked on Amazon.
It was at that moment that the loud church bells announcing noon went off. I remembered where I was. I chided myself, “Oh, Anna! Here you are at church and you can’t focus for 10 seconds to pray without going on Amazon!”
I regrouped my thoughts and had enough sense to do the Angelus prayer.
It was at that moment that my prayers were interrupted by someone yelling outside the church. I did my best to ignore it and focus on my prayer but the yelling was getting louder and closer. It sounded like people were fighting right outside the church!
I looked around the chapel and there were 2 older ladies with me. I realized to my amusement that I was the most able bodied person there and I thought…” Oh man, I should go see what’s happening.”
So I went outside in my 5’2″ glory ready to break up a fight. When I went outside I saw Twila for the first time. She was wearing a bright red shirt, short shorts and a beanie over her long, curly, purple hair. Twila was yelling and she was angry!
I inspected the area and noticed she didn’t seem to be yelling at anyone in particular so I stood back a bit and called to her. “Excuse me! Why are you yelling?”
Twila looked back at me and seemed to realize that she was causing a scene. Exasperated she yells out “My box is gone!! They took my box with all my things! I left it here outside the church, to keep it safe but they took it!!!”
I was a little cautious at this point but I was understanding her outrage a bit more.
“THEY TOOK MY BOX!! IT HAD MY MONEY. IT HAD MY CLOTHES. IT HAD MY BIBLE”
I relaxed a bit and I apologized. “I’m really sorry to hear that. You said you left it there?”
As I listened to her, her voice calmed down and she explained that she left for a bit and came back because she was thirsty and wanted to buy something to drink.
“Sorry I was yelling, I know I shouldn’t be yelling in the church courtyard. I was just so angry!”
he said to them,
“That’s okay, I understand. I would be mad too if someone stole my things.”
After assessing the situation it dawned on me that I could help her with at lesst one thing, she was thirsty.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in
“Well, I don’t know who took your box but I was going to get something to eat. Would you like to have lunch with me?”
Twila smiled incredulous, “Really?! You’re serious? I’d like that!”
Since everything is close downtown we decided to walk to the Farmer Boys a few blocks away. (Honestly I didnt feel safe driving a stranger in my car) As we were walking we passed the huge church garbage cans and a thought crossed my mind.
“Maybe someone mistook your box for trash and accidentally threw it away?”
And what do you know, at the very top of the dumpster, 50 feet from where she was yelling we found her box with all her stuff just as she said!
Twila sighed sheepishly, “I’m so embarrassed!”
I reassured her and said “Hey don’t be! I’m just really glad we found it!”
We made our way to the dumpster and I helped her pull the box. When we pulled, the box gave out and all her belongings dropped into the trashcan. We shared a moment of silence and then I laughed, “Well, time to go in the dumpster.”
As I was trying to figure out how I was going to get in a dumpster that was as tall as I was. I saw Twila turn into an Olympic athlete and pull herself with the bare strength of her arms into the dumpster.
“DANG GIRL! You’re so strong!”
I blamed my inabilty to climb into the dumpster on my sore shoulders… from working out.
Twila started collecting her things and handing them to me one by one. A pair of jeans, a sweater, extra shirts, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a few wires, a blanket, a few other odds and ends and a bible.
When Twila was done handing me everything she opened her bible and took out her cash. She turned to me and said, “Thank you so much for helping me. I was yelling, being all angry and you came out, a tiny person, looking all afraid asking why I was yelling….And now we are going to eat at Farmers Boys! Thank you!!” She flips through her bible one more time, closes it, hands it to me and says, “I want to give you my bible .”
I told her. “I cant take this! This is yours!” I noticed her considering something in her head. After a pause she said, “I have a confession to make.”
I got a bit worried.
She continues, “I stole this bible.”
“I stole the bible.”
“From this church?”
“No, from another one.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have took it but I was reading it and I really liked it and I wanted to keep reading it! I know its bad!”.
“Hmm…I think God forgives you.”
“You think so? Well, that’s why I think you should have it. So I don’t get the bad Juju”
Her logic seemed sound so I happily accepted her gift.
And that’s the story of how I didn’t buy a bible on Amazon.
I kid. This is the story of how God reminded me in a very obvious way, That I was not alone in my anxiety and sadness.
That the devil wants for us to feel alone in our suffering and be blind to the suffering and loneliness of our neighbors. The devil wants to distract us, drown us in self pitty so that we ignore the Word of God. The call to fellowship and love epitimized by the partaking in the breaking of the bread. By sharing our burdens and lightening our brothers and sisters suffering.
Like all stories, there are layers to it. Thats the story of the bible but Twila and I talked for a long time after that and we shared our stories.
She shared about her mental condition, how her kids lived with their dad in another state, how proud she was of them, how she happened to be sleeping in the streets, about her momma, how she was Pentecostal but she wore a rosary because she knew Momma’s are the bosses of everybody including Jesus.
We ate. We laughed and we cried. We opened my new bible and we used it for its intended purpose. To remind ourselves of how much God loves us.
Later that day. When Twila and I parted ways. I opened the bible and found this note tucked in the pages.