The Man I Met Selling His Children’s Toys

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A man selling children's toys on the side of the road makes one mom sad.Last Saturday I was driving through Fort Worth to buy lamps when I met Martin*.

We are moving soon and need table lamps for our new place. I was on my way to drop off money and pick up some lamps that I found in those online buy/sell groups. It was supposed to be a quick front-porch pickup. 

The roads were pretty calm since most people were at home trying to follow the quarantine mandate. Not to mention, it was an overcast, chilly day, so I assume not many people wanted to leave the comfort of their cozy home on a Saturday morning.

As I was listening attentively to the navigation on my phone telling me where the next turn would be, something caught my eye.

Far down on the right was a boarded up, closed down gas station with an abandoned parking lot except for a single black car parked next to the street.

I squinted trying to make out what was all over the car and why. As I neared the vehicle, it suddenly became clear that on top of the car, the front window and the hood were covered in children’s toys, mainly stuffed animals. On the ground in front of the car were also numerous toys, most made of plastic.

For a second I wondered if it was some kind of roadside memorial for a child who had died in a car accident, but as I got closer it hit me.

The owner of the black car was selling anything he could to make money for his family.

My map told me to turn at the street right past the car. As I turned, I saw the back of the car was lined with all kinds of personal care items. There was only one of each item so it was hard to make out what they all were, but I recognized shaving cream and shampoo among many other products.

I pulled into the parking lot wondering if I could somehow help, but I didn’t see anyone.

After a few seconds, a middle-aged man emerged from the passenger seat, and we silently walked toward each other.

Trying to protect us both from potential viral contamination, I tried to stay six feet apart after I handed him a small gift. These sure are complicated times we are living in.

I didn’t want to linger or ask questions because I wanted to respect his privacy and dignity as much as possible. I did ask for his name because people are important, and when a person calls us by name, it feels like we are seen.

Martin. That’s all I know. I don’t know what his life situation is that he is trying to sell all these items on the side of the road. I don’t know if he had to pry these toys from his children’s hands and walk out the door as they cried. I don’t know if he’s selling his only can of shaving cream so he can buy food. I don’t know if he has any support or help to make it through whatever crisis he may be experiencing.

What I do know is that I get to buy lamps. I know I get to imagine what type of lamps I like, I get to make a deal with someone, and I get to ride in my relatively comfortable family van to pick up those lamps. We don’t even really need lamps — they’re not essential. But they are pretty and homey and I really like them. My family has had our own share of difficulties and struggles, HOWEVER, today I get to buy lamps.

I walked away heartbroken for Martin and humbled by my positive situation.

As Easter is upon us I feel even more compelled to follow the lead of Jesus who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us through giving his life.

Is there anyway we can sacrifice more so that others may live better? To be more kind?

Is there any area we have extra time, energy, abilities, money, love that we can share with others, especially during this time where so many are in such great need?

I believe any “extra” we have are gifts we are entrusted with to share. I don’t mean I’m not going to buy lamps again, but how often are we using our resources on merely ourselves or on wasteful things?

Extras are definitely about a lot more than money. Money can only fix some things. The world needs people who have extra energy, compassion, patience, talent, brain power, and love to step up. 

I’m grateful for the reminder that Good Friday, the day Jesus died, wasn’t the end. This COVID-19 pandemic and this time of quarantine and job loss — it’s not the end.

May we put ourselves in positions to bless those who have less with our extra. I feel encouraged that there is still hope. 

*Martin is not his real name, it was changed to honor his privacy.

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Proud to be raised in Burleson (shout out Kelly Clarkson), Jami was even the Elk mascot for her beloved Burleson High School. Jami's greatest pleasure comes from exploring the world and learning about all the beautifully unique people in it, so she started a business in the summer of 2021 taking groups of women around the world! Her business, Women Exploring the World has already taken women to experience Christmas markets in Bruges, Brussels; Paris, and London. They've also taken women to Costa Rica, Italy, Tanzania/Zanzibar, Scotland, and to Norway to see the Northern lights. Jami's greatest gift is her family, Corban, her beloved hubby; Jessy (born 2011); Maggy (born 2013); Lilly (born 2015); and Jude (born 2018). Besides running her travel business, Jami spends her days having adventures with her kids, homeschooling them part-time, assistant coaching PE, attempting to keep her brother and sister labradors out of trouble, keeping her son from killing their cat, and supporting her husband at his Edward Jones office downtown Fort Worth. Jami is a woman secure in God's love for her. He is her first love.

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