What We’re Holding On To

August 3, 2011 | 39 comments

My mom heard a voice, a quiet voice, calling for her to come.

Mom was leaving the market, and she was carrying grocery sacks weighted down by ice cream. The sun puddled hot on that Minnesota parking lot, where the smell of spruce and asphalt mingled in the muggy air. And somewhere a weak voice kept calling to her: Come here. Please? Could you come here?

The voice. It came from an old, white station wagon parked by the front door. The passenger window was rolled down, and the woman inside was old, frail — not more than 100 pounds. She was alone.

“Are you talking to me?” my mom asked.

The woman in the station wagon nodded her head, crowned with hair as white as the vanilla in Mom’s grocery sack.

Mom — a woman who doesn’t know a stranger — walked to the open window, leaned her head inside and smiled.

“How can I help you?” Mom asked.

And this woman, she just wanted one little thing: “Would you give me something to hold? I don’t have anything to hold and I want something that I can call my own.

Mom’s mind raced. She wished she had a pocket stone or one of the Beanie Babies that she used to keep in the trunk of car — small, stuffed gifts for the grandkids when they came to visit.   

But she had nothing, except a half-gallon of vanilla and boxes of ice-cream sandwiches. Nothing at all for the woman to hold. Mom told her this, but the woman replied:

“Well, I could hold your hands.”

Five hours later, we’re on the deck when Mom tells us this story, just after we arrived here in Minnesota for a visit at their cabin. Tears pool in her eyes, as she tells us what happened in a grocery-store parking lot.

Because don’t we all want to be loved? Don’t we all need someone to hold?  Life presses down hard in this world — this frazzled, harried, got-to-get-it-done world. In the rush, everything can feel like it’s slipping through our fingers. And because we’re afraid of what might melt, we can’t let go of this thing in our hands. What might we risk with empty hands? 

Sun melts orange across the western sky, as Mom tells her story. I hear a loon, a lone cry from the wild.

Yes, Mom had set down her bags on the hot pavement of that grocery-store parking lot that afternoon. And yes, the bags were filled with ice-cream treats for my girls. And yes, she reached her empty hands into the car to find the hands of another — one small act of emptying and refilling.

They held hands, and the woman smiled, and for eight minutes, they stood that way — hands cupped together as ice cream melted in sacks.

Mom told the woman: I hope I see you again sometime.

And the woman said she hoped so, too.



On the deck, Anna hears the part about the ice cream, and asks if she can have some. 

(It still tasted good. Maybe even better.)  


Joining Ann Voskamp today, who asks us to consider the Practice of Love.

by | August 3, 2011 | 39 comments


  1. Kendra

    Wow, Jennifer. That is a vivid picture of something most people just feel. It captures what is mainly a feeling and puts it right there into the physical. Thank you!
    We all want something to hold, I mean, we hold onto our Creator, the God who is our everything. But sometimes we need that physical thing, that ‘for-sure’ reality, we can see that reminds us of Who He really is.

    • dukeslee

      I agree, Kendra. God calls us to live in community. We are the Body of Christ. He didn’t intend for us to be alone.

  2. kendal

    love. simply love this.

  3. Glynn

    Beautiful story, Jennifer. And a lesson for each of us — lookfor those hands to hold.

  4. lisa auter

    Tears…as Jesus’ love pours out your mother.

  5. Megan Willome

    Now I know where you get it–from your mom!

    I would have ignored the poor old woman and escaped into the A/C of my car. Sad, but true. And with my hearing difficulties, I’m sure I would not have heard her at all.

    • dukeslee

      My Mom is pretty special. I don’t know if I take after her, but I certainly ASPIRE to. Thanks Megan …

  6. HisFireFly

    The cry of almost every heart – “give me something to hold on to”

    and you do that for us, dear jennifer, because you lead us toward His love!

  7. Lori

    Oh Wow, Jennifer, that story broke my heart. My Mom would have done the same thing and I surely hope I would have as well and not just ignored “the voice.” It haunts me, and I know there are many, many people out there just like her that just want something to hold, someone to love them…..You are an awesome writer! Lori

  8. S. Etole

    Beautifully told … and lived.

  9. Deidra

    Such a touching story. What a beautiful act of kindness. May we all be ready and willing to give. Wow – powerful stuff!

  10. Linda

    I can’t find words for the tears. Thank you Jennifer.

  11. Judi

    what a lovely story. I had a similar thing happen to me over 30 years ago. I was a young mom and and old woman stepped in front of my car (again at the grocery store) I stopped the car to see what I could do. She said that she just had to have some corn on the cob, but now that she had walked to the store she couldn’t make it home. It was just a short way, but I was glad to add to my stops of the day and help her have her corn on the cob 🙂 God works in mysterious ways!

    • dukeslee

      Judi …

      There. That is it, right there. You, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Well done, good and faithful servant!

  12. Stephani

    So many hurting people, and we walk by them everyday completely unaware. Thanks for sharing this, and I’m so glad your mother wasn’t afraid to reach out. Grace and peace . . .

  13. Laura

    What a mama you have. Read this with tears in my eyes.

  14. Sheila Lagrand

    Even a cup of cold water offered in His name…how much better then, a hand to hold, and companionship?

    Beautiful, Jennifer. The post, your mom, and you.

  15. Rita Schau

    I know those hands in the pictures!! Your mother is a gift. I’m so glad I know her! You are a lucky girl. 🙂

  16. Lyla Lindquist

    Warning: Long comment ahead. I have no time to post at my place but wanted to get here during my supper break to check in (while I eat, yes, melted ice cream). And now look what you’ve gone and done.

    I visited with a aging gentlewoman here in Northern MN whose home was hit by back-to-back devastating windstorms. She’s in a remote area, secluded by the most luscious trees. From where you are this week, you know what I’m talking about. She lives alone.

    One tree crashed into her home. Dozens more are on the ground. She goes out every day, half bent over from age and arthritis and bursitis and works her way through because no one has the time to come all the way out to her place and help her out.

    We spent quite a while with her not just to document her damage but to listen. She’s lived in her home for 65 years. The large tree that crashed into it her kitchen has given her shade in the hot summer afternoons as long as she can remember. Now, she has a towel clipped between the curtains with clothespins to hold back the heat a little.

    I got up to leave, as we still had several stops on an already full day, and reached out to shake her hand. She took it, and didn’t give it back. She looked back out the window and said, “That tree used to shade my house. Now it’s just so hot in here.”

    She held on a while. I stayed put.

    And I so wanted to cancel my afternoon to spend it there with her, in the heat of the sun.

    You tell Mama Dukes thank you for me, for holding on to the woman in the parking lot.

    Wishing I had some time to visit with you this week.

    • dukeslee

      A beautiful story, Lyla.

      How blessed I am, to have you grace the comment box over here with this. I am continually amazed at the various ways God uses you in your work. You are definitely living out a high calling, Lyla.

  17. Elizabeth

    While I think I’ve read every post you’ve written since I started following you over two years ago, this one may be my favorite. I love your Mama for what she did.

    • dukeslee

      First of all, Elizabeth, thank you for repeatedly coming here, and reading the words that find their way into this place. I am humbled…

      Secondly, your words encourage me today — and my Mom, too. (I read this comment aloud to her…)


  18. nmdr

    a beautiful story. thank you for sharing this.

  19. Nancy

    Ann Voskamp had a story, not long ago, about the power of human touch. It reminded me of a former professor who delivered Meals on Wheels. He said, when he and his wife made deliveries, they always made a point of touching the elderly folks who received the food because some of them went for days without receiving the gift of human touch. Your mama has a good heart, to see and respond. Maybe that’s where you get yours.

  20. ro elliott

    I love the simple response…just to stop and hold a hand…
    “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. She gave Love…the Love of Christ….she may never know the deep impact that had on that ladies heart.
    Thanks for sharing this story….

  21. Simply Darlene

    Whoa Nelly, that is some story! Your momma, she must be doing better? (I hope and pray.)

    You know, I focus on people’s hands. They tell so much about a person, but in this case, it’s the hands, the story, and the t-shirt. What a combo! What a great momma.


  22. Linda

    Wow! To take the time to love, to touch is an amazing reminder and example. And to respond when the opprotunity is right there for us to seize! Thank you for sharing this story.

  23. Denise

    We all want something we can call our own — even if it is the borrowed touch of another. So beautiful that your mother was willing to hear and be in that moment what another desperately wanted. A reminder to us all that a simple gift – as simple as we are – may be the whole that another hungers for.

  24. Jeanne Damoff

    Perfect. The story. The photos. Your momma’s heart.

    Love you, Jennifer.

  25. Karen

    WOW! Your mom lives with the eyes of her heart wide open! This story will definitely be retold! THANKS

  26. Kelly Sauer

    She asked. She stopped. The need and the answer. We all know it. Why do we push it away as we do?

  27. Kelly

    So glad she was tender hearted enough to hear that small voice. Amen Sister! Amen…

  28. Alisa Hope Wagner

    What a beautiful and powerful moment! I adore your mom!!!

  29. Sarah

    As always, a refreshing dip today, drenched in real love.

    Thank you.

  30. Dea

    I loved this story!!!!!!!! And I love your Mom!!!! Thank you for sharing it so beautifully.

  31. Diana Trautwein

    Such lovely hands, such lovely words. Thank you for this, dear Jennifer. And thank your sweet mama for being the hands of Jesus to someone lonely and in need. Sigh.

  32. Duane Scott

    This brings tears to my eyes, Jennifer.

    So beautiful…

  33. Darcy

    This is the first time I’ve visited your site. What a lovely post. What part of MN does your mom live in? I’m from Bemidji.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Darcy! Glad you are here … My parents live their summers near Longville, MN. Are you familiar with it? It is between Walker and Brainerd, but a bit to the east of there.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest