You Had Me at Cocaine.

Whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31 (NIV)

A young woman named Ebony – or so she’d said – approached me and my daughter several yards from the entrance to ballet. Her gait was gimpy, her eyes dark as stones, a color to match her name, and her need immense. 

As Ebony edged closer, she made eye contact and rubbed nervous palms together. 

In response, I paused mid-stride, eyes stilled on hers. Studying. 

She said, “’Scuse me. I’m in a bad way and…was wondering if, you had anything, any money. Anything will help.”

Her words came out monotone. Scripted. 

I offered a silent prayer for discernment.

Lord, what are you asking of me here? 

The meager four dollars and handful of coins I had in my wallet seemed to swell.

After all, my money isn’t my money. It all belongs to God. 

As well as my clothing, the vehicle I drove to get my daughter to dance, the gas it swallowed to get her there. The food I’d eaten before we left.

My every breath. And every one that follows it.

It’s all His.

And there’s this… Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:42 (NIV)

Enter discernment.  

Prompted by the Spirit, I said to her, “I’d like to hear your story.” (Leave it to me to snag story inspiration at a time like this)

With fragmented sentences, she shared. Nonsensical mutterings mostly. And something about her mom having tossed her out and ‘is holding the check’…

So, Lord, those four dollars?

And then the woman’s unfiltered admission: “…I’m a schizophrenic. On cocaine.”

At that, I had my answer. Ebony wasn’t getting a dime. 

In exchange, I offered to pray for her, right there, pleased that she nodded acceptance despite her stony gaze.

As I placed my hand on her shoulder, she drew her arms inside her sweatshirt and cracked her knuckles while I prayed for God to take care of her every need,

Admittedly, one sliver of my brain was given to imaginary headlines…

Schizophrenic on cocaine pulls out a knife and stabs nice lady outside ballet studio while her eyes were shut in prayer. Ballerina daughter looks on in horror.

But God picked me for that moment, for that young woman. The divine intersection between me and a schizophrenic on cocaine was, if nothing else, meant to sharpen my discernment skills.

Not all help is helpful. Sometimes my ‘help’ interferes with God’s discipline of a person.

During my own financial hardship, some have handed me a large wad of bills because “God told me to empty my wallet.”  That’s been helpful. Crucial even. Tangible evidence of God’s promise to provide.

Others have simply listened empathetically and prayed faithfully. That’s led me to trust what I can’t yet see which is the very essence of faith.

Would Ebony have used my meager four dollars to buy a meal at Bojangles and been encouraged to press on another day? Or would she have spent it foolishly? (What’s the going rate for cocaine anyway?) 

Either way, she had me at ‘cocaine’, the moment where God said, “Keep My four dollars.”

The only thing I could offer was kindness, compassion, and dignity.

And the call to love well.

Who needs you to be kind and love them well today?



  1. Jerusha Agen says:

    Powerful post, Mary! I’ve been in that kind of situation myself, approached by someone and left totally flummoxed as to what I should or shouldn’t offer. I love that you prayed with her! I’ll remember that as something to offer the next time I encounter a person in this type of situation. I love how God gave you clear guidance and showed you a way to still show compassion and love, offering this lady what she probably needed more than anything.

    • Mary Felkins says:

      Being low on cash does shove me out of my comfort zone to pray with a stranger when giving money could have been easier. At the end of the day, it’s God’s work.

  2. Stacey says:

    Discernment is necessary in those moments. Thanks for sharing such a powerful testimony of God at work in your life —and hers.

    • Mary Felkins says:

      Discernment is necessary and difficult. I’m comforted to know if I misread a situation and part with money when it was not the best decision God will cover that, too. Thanks, Stacey.

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