Persons, places and things: beatitudes and baby strollers

By Barb Arland-Fye

Lisa Fox knew Pope Francis recently encouraged Christians to memorize the beatitudes. Hoping to promote the Holy Father’s efforts, her pastor distributed cards listing the beatitudes to parishioners at Ss. Philip & James Parish in Grand Mound. She took her card, tucked it into her cell phone pocket and forgot about the list until an extraordinary God moment caught her attention.

Arland-Fye

“I had been working late in my classroom one night,” recalled Fox, who teaches kindergarten at Ekstrand Elementary in DeWitt. The school year had begun a couple of weeks earlier and she knew it would be a challenging one. Around 10 p.m., she left her empty classroom and headed for home.

Stopping at a gas station, she happened to see a young woman carrying a baby in her arms. “I rolled down my window and asked if she needed a ride. I explained that I was a kindergarten teacher.” The young woman accepted the offer, and explained that she and her husband, who works nights at a fast-food restaurant, didn’t have transportation.

Wanting to be helpful, Lisa figured the least she could do was offer to get a stroller for the baby. She told the mom, “I have 10 sisters, I’m sure we can get a stroller.” But after dropping off mother and child at their apartment building, Lisa thought: “I’m 50 years old and my sisters are older than me. We don’t have a stroller!” She knew she had to get this mom a stroller, now. Lisa drove another 20 minutes to Maquoketa, Iowa, and purchased the “cheapest umbrella stroller for $14” at a big-box store.

Recognizing that her motives were not perfect — she wanted to get this to-do item off her list — Lisa drove to the fast-foot restaurant, where the young woman said her husband worked. Lisa told the young man, “I think I met your wife,” gave him the stroller and left because “I didn’t want him to feel bad.”

A few days later, at school, a reading teacher approached Lisa and said, “Mrs. Fox, I dreamt about you last night … I was walking in the rain carrying a baby and you kept stopping your car and asking me if I needed a ride.”

“I froze in my tracks,” Lisa said. “I asked her, ‘When did you have this dream?’ It was the same night I had given this lady a ride!” Lisa felt goose bumps as she explained to the reading teacher what had happened.

Lisa hadn’t planned to share her story with anyone else, certainly not at Mass. She’d been raised to sit still and be quiet. When Father Bill Kneemiller, pastor of Ss. Philip and James, asked parishioners during Mass to share their beatitude stories, she mustered the courage to share hers — at the end of Mass. Her husband, standing beside her, had no idea about her late-night shopping adventure to help a young mom in need.

What does Lisa take away from this experience?

“The beatitudes were on my hip for a week in that purse with my phone. I never pulled that card out once. What the pope is asking us to do is memorize. Memorizing things as a teacher is easy,” Lisa said. “Performing a task is more difficult.”

I believe God inspired Lisa not to memorize the beatitudes, but to practice them from the heart.

“Maybe by keeping (the beatitudes) with me, they worked through me,” Lisa said. “Maybe they’ve changed my attitude about what I’m challenged with in my classroom. I’ve always believed that whoever walks through my kindergarten door, there’s a reason they’re there and with me.”

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