Note: It has some mature content and strong language. It is part of reality and part of this story but may be triggering for sensitive readers.
The Day She Was Seen
“Ugh. These damn bags are so heavy.” Kendra huffed out loud as she heaved the laundry lags from the back of her car into the Laundromat.
It was her day, wait, hold it. It was ALWAYS her day to do laundry here. Since the washer and dryer broke no one seemed to really care about fixing it; Kendra was the one who spent her entire Tuesdays at the local “Bubble Mat” washing and drying the clothes for everyone in the house.
Everyone included her; Jade, her mom; her moms’ boy friend Chris and his 8 year old son Michael. Kendra’s boyfriend Jeffrey moved in once they found out she was pregnant and his parents decided he was on his own. Not that her mom would have even noticed if he had moved in. Jade really wasn’t a mom. She was the “I want to be your friend” kind of mom. She also wanted to live her own life. She often told Kendra that having her at 18 took away the 20’s life she wanted. Jade now lived like a 20 year old with the life she never had; leaving Kendra at home to watch Michael.
Jade tore up the town, doing what? Kendra knew but tried not to think about it. She knew her mom was an alcoholic and had a heroin addiction; however knowing that Jade was going out and leaving Kendra at home to fend for herself and try to keep Chris off of her on the nights he didn’t go with her was horse shit in Kendra’s mind.
It wasn’t that spending her Tuesday at the “Bubble Mat” was a huge deal. They had a nice TV, cable, coffee, new magazines, couches that didn’t have holes and were actually comfortable. This place spared no expense to keep their laundering customers happy. It was that no one asked, it was just assumed that because “she had nothing else to do” that it would just be ok with her. Like everything else in her life it seemed. She was the one, the easy one; the easy target for men, for the guys at school and even some of the teachers.
The not hearing or Kendra knowing she wasn’t seen had been prevalent since she was a child. It was as if every time she spoke to Jade she was screaming at a brick wall. Chris was an asshole who used Kendra as his substitute for sex whenever Jade was passed out, not home or didn’t want to put out. However since she found out she was pregnant he left her alone. She was thankful for that. She had been used, abused and then left behind since she was four.
Shaking the memories from her mind she got back to the tasks at hand.
She got the bags in the door, settled in front of her usual washer and dryer combo and got to sorting. That’s when she heard the voice.
“Daddy, after we get our clothes in can we go next door and get some juice and a cookie?”
A blond, curly haired girl with the biggest blue eyes she had ever seen, looked up with hope that her daddy would say yes.
“Of course baby cakes. Just like I said in the car; I knew you were looking forward to juice and a cookie from the bakery next door; I just have to get this load started.”
“Daddy, why did we have to come here? I don’t 'member,” the little girl asked her daddy, not able to pronounce "remember."
Kendra giggled to herself, thinking about how cute that was and that one day she was going to have a child who would probably do the same thing.
“The washer broke sweetheart. And we can’t get the new one delivered until this weekend. We have to have clean clothes don’t we?” her dad responded with a smile.
There was gentleness about him. Nothing striking or remarkable; it was the way he looked at his little girl. Kendra could tell that he meant what he said about getting the juice and cookie.
She sighed without realizing. Too many broken promises she thought to herself. Now there was this growing baby inside of her that she didn’t know how she was going to take care of.
He must have heard her sigh because he looked her way and when he did that’s when Kendra noticed his eyes. Brown and piercing.
“Can I get you something while we are next door? It looks like you could use it.”
The way he spoke to her sent a wave of something unfamiliar over Kendra. It caused tears to prick her eyes.
“Get a hold of yourself, all he asked was if you wanted something from the bakery.”
Kendra often had these conversations with herself. She was the only one who listened.
“Really? No I couldn’t, that’s too much you don’t even know me.”
Kendra felt guilty that he had even asked to buy her something. Usually people, men, wanted something in return. This guy was different, she could feel it.
“I’m serious; it would be our pleasure to treat you to something special. Plus I don’t think that Jenny will let you get away with saying no. She already seems quite taken with you.”
As Kendra looked down she saw that Jenny, the man’s daughter who must have been about four was sitting at her feet staring up at her, somewhat longingly. Again Kendra felt that rush, she wanted to call it peace but was afraid to because that was a foreign feeling for her.
“Sure I’ll take a croissant and chocolate milk. Thank you, this is really sweet of you.”
Kendra felt weird responding. There was a wave of guilt mixed with something else, she wasn’t sure what that feeling was though.
“That sounds perfect. Jenny and I will be right back. It looks like we’ll be spending most of our afternoon together. My name is Jon.”
He stuck out his hand in response.
“Ke-Kendra,” she sputtered, unsure of why it was so hard for her to get her name out.
“Nice to meet you Kendra”
She sat with a sigh of relief. All loads were sorted and in the washing machines. She picked up a magazine and put her feet up. Releasing all the tension she had been carrying with a deep breath she realized that this man, Jon was actually being nice for the sake of really being nice. She did not know anyone like that. Except maybe her high school English teacher Mr. Shermer but she’d had to drop out and take the GED courses when she found out she was pregnant. According to the school it was a bad example to the other students for her to stay there.
She had heard the vice principal call it unsightly and trashy. That Kendra was “just like Jade, a slut who went from man to man.” Kendra was so shattered after hearing those words spoken over her. Yet they weren’t unfamiliar. She’d heard them everywhere. From her youth group leaders, to the parents of her friend and even Jade would throw out vicious words. Kendra was used to being called a whore, slut, stoner like her mom. It was the rumor around school that if you wanted an easy lay to call Kendra. She had gotten to the point where the words didn’t bother her anymore; they just sank in to the pile of others and sat there like brewing bile.
Where she struggled is that some of those things were “true” in a sense. Kendra had learned early on that she was a commodity. She learned that her body was not her own and that whoever wanted to use it for their pleasure could; whenever they wanted. This was mostly by whatever boyfriend her mom had at the time. As she got older she took the things these men told her and used them to get what she needed; and it worked. She worked so hard to keep the damage that all the words had caused down. She never wanted to feel anything. The pain was too much. So she did what she could to not feel and it was usually with men.
Then Kendra met Jeffrey when she was 15 and it felt like time stopped. He told her he was going to take care of her and love her like she had never been loved before. He wanted to “help her see that not all men are like that” However it didn’t take long for him to turn into an asshole and treat her like secondhand news. When she found out she was carrying his child he was not thrilled, but as he treated Kendra like his property this baby was his property and no one was going to “take it away”
“Ding Ding Ding”
Kendra heard the bells on the door of the Laundromat and saw Jon and Jenny. She was thankful that they were back. Thinking about all her shit was too painful. She needed the reprieve of Jon and Jenny hanging out with her.
“I’ve got one croissant and a chocolate milk for the lady.”
Jon handed her the goodies they brought her from the bakery. She was still in awe that someone had done something nice for her. Especially someone she didn’t know.
“Thank you again. I mean, WOW! That was really nice of you.”
“You’re welcome. It was our pleasure to treat you.”
Jon smiled as he looked at Kendra. It was a gentle and caring smile. Kendra hadn’t seen anything like it before. It still caused that feeling inside her that she couldn’t name.
“Can I sit next to you so I can dink my juice and eat my cookie?” Jenny asked Kendra
“Of course you can. These couches are plenty big and really comfortable.”
Kendra was surprised that Jenny was so taken with her. But it felt nice.
“It sounds like you spend a lot of time here Kendra.” Jon asked inquisitively
“I do, uh unfortunately or fortunately however you want to look at it. I have been designated laundry girl for the house. I get to spend every Tuesday here, it’s nice and quiet and I am not at home so it’s not half bad I suppose.”
“Why aren’t you in school?” Jon seemed confused.
“Well………. That’s a long story.”
Kendra was suddenly surprised as to why this man was asking her all these questions, yet it didn’t feel strange to answer them. It almost felt like she was speaking to someone she had known forever.
And someone that knew her.
“When the school found out that I was pregnant they asked me to leave. They said I was a bad influence on the other girls. That my “promiscuity and obvious inability to focus on the important things in life were not something they wanted promoted at their school.”
As Kendra said the words she wished she could take them back. Why was she telling this man, this man she did not know about her deeply personal stuff.
“That sounds painful Kendra. I imagine it hurt to hear those words about yourself?”
Jon’s voice had so much empathy in it that it brought tears to Kendra’s eyes. She tried to keep them from flowing but she couldn’t.
They spilled over and poured down her cheeks.
“Kendra can I ask you a question?”
“Wha… What do you want to ask?”
She suddenly felt as though this man could see right through her and see her, see all of her. It scared her but caused that initial feeling that she assumed was peace to rise up again.
“I know you are a girl with a story. I can see it on your face and in your heart. When you speak it’s as if I have known you your whole life. The question I want to ask is what do you want? Why are you staying in this situation?”
Kendra froze with Jon’s question.
“What do you mean why do I stay in my situation?”
“Kendra I know where you live, I know your mom and her boyfriend. I know that your boyfriend lives with you. I know also that this isn’t what you want. I can see past the tough look you keep on your exterior to keep people out.”
Kendra sat there on that couch stunned. How could this man she never met know her situation so intimately? This was not a typical conversation that she would have with someone she had just met, yet the only thing she felt was that settled feeling she could describe as peace. In a normal setting if someone “called her out” like that; she would have risen up and fought back in defense, trying to explain her position. Yet with Jon it seemed as though his words had depth, truth and that he truly meant what he was saying to her.
“Kendra I know you don’t want to stay there. You aren’t cared for. I know that you have gone from guy to guy looking for that love that you have never received from the people in your life; the ones that were supposed to love and nurture you. There is a better way, a better love, I hope that I can offer you that way.”
What was he saying? Kendra’s ears started to feel fuzzy with what he was speaking over her. It was love he was speaking. Kendra had never had love, real love spoken over her. Fuzziness grew and as her baby kicked she wondered if she really could leave.
“Kendra, Kendra can you hear me?”
“Ye, Ye, Yeah. I can hear you. I am listening, trust me. I have never heard words like this before. These words you are saying sound strange to me and I don’t understand them but I want to. I want to believe that there is freedom, that I could really leave and that there really is a kind of love that you speak of.”
“There is, it takes trust to hold on to it and believe in this Love but it’s there. I have known it myself. It’s the reason I am able to see who you are and what you have done to fill that empty space. Freedom and grace come crashing into your heart through this love, the love in the name of Jesus.”
Kendra had wondered if this was where he was going. Jesus. The Savior people spoke about, the Messiah, the one who was to “forgive her sins and make her clean and whole again.” She usually balked at churchy talk. It made her angry when people wanted to try and force things on her or tell her “in the name of religion that she was wrong, condemned or a SINNER”
Jon’s words didn’t feel anything like that. Gracious, loving, soft and gentle is what they felt like. Almost as if she were ready to believe them and make them her own.
“I am going to close my eyes for a minute. I am really tired all of a sudden.”
Kendra’s eyes started to grow heavy and soon she was asleep.
She woke up only 15 minutes later to find Jon and Jenny gone with no trace of their laundry or them even being there. She looked over and her croissant was still there, untouched even though she had eaten half of it before her nap. Her chocolate milk was also full to the brim, though Kendra knew she had finished it during her conversation with Jon.
She shook her head, trying to clear the fuzziness she felt.
“What the heck Kendra. Are you going crazy? What just happened? “
It was if Jon and Jenny had never been to the Laundromat. Their laundry was gone even though Kendra had only slept for 15 minutes, there was a brand new croissant and filled chocolate milk IN THE SAME CONTAINER. Was it a dream? No, otherwise there would be no food.
As Kendra struggled to grasp the strangeness of the situation Jon’s words began to come back into her heart. They began to burn and she began to realize that even if it had all been a dream someone had spoken truth and life over her and had seen her. This man she met, this Jon had spoken of Jesus, of a love that sees right through you and everything you have, everything you have ever done and STILL LOVES YOU. Somehow it felt right.
Kendra picked up her cell phone to call her best friend Shannon.
“Hey Shann, you are NOT going to believe what just happened at the Bubble-Mat.”
This story was taken from the story in John* where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. It has always been one of my favorites because He saw her, He knew her and He showed her a different way of love.
*Read about the woman at the well in John 4.