Temporary Home

I pulled into a truck stop in a remote part of Kansas just as I ran out of drive time. The day had started at 2am and I’d been bombarded with challenges all day. My patience had reached its limit and I was ready for a relaxing dinner in the local restaurant.

I grabbed a window booth and perused the menu. As with many local eateries in Kansas, they had a Mexican food section. I ordered my vegetarian enchiladas and chomped on the chips and salsa. My young waitress drew me to her immediately with her infectious smile. She was friendly and attentive, and eager to please her weary customer. We struck up a conversation.

Jennifer is only 18 and was orphaned at age five. She was never adopted, although she is so delightful, I can’t imagine why. Throughout her childhood, she was placed in over a hundred foster homes, until she finally aged out of the system.

I was amazed and couldn’t help but ask, “How were you able to cope with bouncing around with no place of your own?”

“When you’re in the foster system, you learn quickly that nothing is permanent. No matter where they place you, it’s just a temporary home.”

“That must have been very difficult for you.”

“Sometimes. But I’m no different from you.”

I thought she somehow knew about my life and my story.  “How so?”

“We’re all just passing through. Earth not our destination. It’s our temporary home. I’m headed to Heaven. What about you?”

For the next few minutes, I let Jennifer share Jesus with me. It was important to her. I finally told her that I share her faith.

“I knew it. It just felt good to tell you. Thanks for letting me.”

“So what now, Jennifer? What are you doing now? I’m sure you had to qualify for college scholarships.”

The smile momentarily faded from her face for the first time since we’d met. “Another thing I learned in foster care was it’s best to not take the handouts they give you. There are always strings attached in foster homes.”

“So you’re on your own now?”

“Yes. I rent a room from my boss. I work here and two other jobs. No colleges around here to go to but I’m taking classes online. I pay my own tuition as I go. Another year and I will have my BA degree.”

“What then? Have a plan?”

“I suppose most people would think I’d do social work or something to right the wrongs and save the foster care system. But that’s impossible to accomplish and God rescued me from it. I have no plans to go back. This is cattle country. The cows need veterinary care. I’m going to Vet school. I’ve already been accepted. I just have to complete my biology labs at the campus this summer. I start in the fall.”

Noticing that Jennifer’s smile had returned, I knew in my heart she would be fine and go far in life. She’d been bounced around more than a tennis ball on centre court at Wimbledon, yet her attitude remained hopeful. She possessed a wisdom beyond her years, that true wisdom forged on the anvil of suffering.

I wanted to do something to help her. I wanted to adopt her and make her my kid. But she was not a child. She was a bigger than life young woman determined to grab life by the horns and force it to follow her lead.

Jennifer knows it is fleeting. She’ll never get it back. She knows this earth, however unfair it was to her during her childhood, is merely her temporary home. She embraces every moment and squeezes every drop of goodie out of it, not intending to waste a single one lamenting over water under a bridge she did not build.

As I reluctantly said goodbye to my new friend and slowly walked back to my truck, I was reminded how temporary life—good or bad—really is. I let the challenging waters of my day roll under the proverbial bridge and disappear somewhere beyond my world.

Jennifer got it right.