A Mother’s Answered Prayer

in honor of "Random Acts of Kindness Day"

Posted by Nancy Lee on February 16, 2024

Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31 NIV).


Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. In honor of the occasion, I have a story to share about a time when I was blessed by the kindness of a total stranger living 1400 miles away.

We all remember those days of the pandemic when lives were upended and people were living in fear, fueled by the daily COVID death tallies on the news. And when travel bans kept us isolated from our loved ones who lived far away, such as my twenty-year-old daughter who was living in Florida.

When I picked up the phone and heard my daughter’s voice, I knew she had COVID before she even told me. “Mom, I am so sick,” she said. I could barely hear her.

Mariah, the youngest of my four children and the go-getter of the family, left our home in Upstate New York right after graduation at the age of 18 to do an internship in Indianapolis. In the fall, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, for another internship where she was offered a full-time position. 

Mariah wasn’t happy with city life, so, in May of 2020, she negotiated with her boss to work remotely and, with the help of a friend, rented a U-Haul, drove to Florida, and moved into an apartment sight unseen. The apartment in downtown Arcadia was not a place I was comfortable with her living, but God answered my prayers and within a few months, Mariah met someone at church who offered her an in-law apartment in the back of their garage in a safe neighborhood for reasonable rent. 

That is where she was living when she called me and told me she had COVID-19.

Like most mothers I know, I constantly pray for my children, but this really tugged on my heart. I just wanted to fly down and take care of her. Even if there hadn’t been strict travel restrictions, I couldn’t have gone because I was taking care of my mother who had brain cancer. The distance never felt further.

“If only she were here, I would make her homemade soup like I used to when she was little,” I thought. I knew that was ridiculous. Of course, there was no way to send her soup, so I did a Google search and started calling restaurants in Florida.  I quickly realized that I was starting too late in the day, so I began making calls the next morning. Some restaurants were closed, and the ones I found that had soup on the menu either didn’t deliver or used DoorDash and wouldn’t deliver to her address.

By the next day, I was discouraged but determined to keep trying. “Please Lord,” I prayed, “please find someone to help Mariah.”

I set out calling all the restaurants in Arcadia. I can only imagine how desperate I must have sounded: “I’m calling from Upstate New York, and my 20-year-old daughter is sick with Covid. Do you deliver? I just want to have soup delivered to her.”

After reaching a few answering machines, a friendly lady from a restaurant called My Shelly’s Kitchen answered the phone. “Yes, I can help you,” she said. “We make deliveries after we close. Call me back at 3:00 and I will take your order.”

At two-thirty the woman called me back. “What do you need for your daughter?” she asked.

“Can you deliver three orders of vegetable soup, please? I want to make sure she has enough for a few days. And could you throw in a sandwich to go along with the soup?”

“Yes, we can do that. Does she need anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so. Thank you so much! How much do I owe you?”

“We don’t charge,” she said.

“You don’t charge for delivery?” I said, “That is so nice. Thank you. But how much do I owe you for the food?” 

“There is no charge for the food,” she said. “When the restaurant closes, we make deliveries to the homeless and people with COVID.”

I couldn’t convince her to let me pay her, but she gave me a contact for a mission she worked in conjunction with where I could send a donation.

“Thank you, Lord,” I whispered under my breath. “Thank you for answering my prayer.”

I found out a few days later God more than answered my prayer. The restaurant left three large containers of soup along with a sandwich in the back of the garage, and a few days later, Mariah found a bag of groceries there as well. A week later, they called me and asked if my daughter needed anything else.

I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I felt that God had answered my prayer and sent someone to watch over my daughter 1400 miles away.

I was recently visiting Arcadia, Florida, and l was finally able to meet the woman who was the answer to my prayer. My daughters, son-in-law, and I stopped at her restaurant, My Shelly’s Kitchen. We sat at a quaint glass table next to a large carved wooden fireplace. Our food was brought to us on pink and green floral China. While we were waiting for our food, I asked our waiter who Shelly was. She pointed her out sitting at a long table with several people. When I saw her get up, I went over to her.

“Oh yes, I remember you,” she said, “you were the lady from New York.” She hugged me and told me how happy she was to meet me. I asked her if I could interview her for my blog. “If you come back Sunday at 2:30, I will tell you my whole story,” she said.

And what a story! This is when I realized that her act of kindness was not random at all. And that Shelly is an answer to so much more than the prayer of a desperate mother. Shelly is the hub of a network of churches, organizations, and individuals determined to live the life that has been lost in our society—to return to humanity, to return to God. To love your neighbor as yourself.

I was floored when she told me they feed 184 homeless a day. At first, I thought it was a mistake. I thought maybe she meant per week or month, but no. She repeated it. One hundred eighty-four per day. And that is only a small part of the impact she and her network make in Arcadia, Florida. Visit my blog next month to hear her inspiring story.

*Background photo is of Morgan Park in Arcadia, Florida, taken by Mariah Lee.