While I was out in town for a few hours alone today, I came across a man I’ve seen before. I’ve even written a little about him in a previous blog after my son, Noah, and I had seen him and Noah wanted to give him money for food.
He is an unassuming little man who doesn’t call out or make a disturbance to draw attention to himself. He simply sits with his cardboard sign that reads, “need work” or “hungry, need help for food.” Today, already feeling some heaviness from other concerns that often press in on my mind, I found myself again crossing the path of this stranger.
This time, as in times past, he did not call out to me so I approached and asked, “are you hungry?” Not knowing if anyone had already given him lunch, I wanted to ask. He responded, “yes, I am.” I asked, “would you like a bagel?” He cast his eyes toward Panera which is all the way on the other end of the strip from where we were before answering. The afternoon heat hovered around 100 degrees and the humidity made for a sweltering feel to the air that separated us. He glanced toward Kroger which was very close to where we were and said, “they have chicken, I would like some and a coke, it’s just right there.” I asked if he wanted to walk with me. He looked almost embarrassed, maybe ashamed. Then I felt bad, realizing…I said, “I’ll be back.”
So I went and had to wait in line. I wondered if maybe someone else would come along and give him something before I could get back to him because of the time it was taking. I hoped he wasn’t thinking I had simply left without giving him lunch. I pondered what to say to him and also the fact that it could just as easily have been me there in need of food, of help. I felt grateful and sad all at the same time and prayed, “Lord help me to say the right thing and to give you the glory. I thank you for providing for me and I want to use what You give me in the way that will please You.”
Knowing I so needed God’s help to get the words out right and really not having anything ready on my lips I simply found myself before the man on bended knee so that I could look him in the eyes when we spoke. There have been times in the past when I gave to others without making a real connection and I don’t want to ever do that again. I want to let others know I see them. I see them as real and as significant as any other person because they are!
So there we were, face to face, and I simply said, “Jesus does love you.” He immediately met my eyes, and he said, “I know.” He went on to share with me that he needs a job, wants to work and is willing to work for food. He said sometimes people will allow him to wash their car or do an odd job and will either pay him or give him food. Then he said, “and I thank God. I know He provides.”
I was humbled by his wisdom and his humility. I really didn’t know what else to say, but wanted to say more so again I said, “Jesus loves you” and then I added, “and I do too.” He smiled and thanked me and then looked to me and said, “when one asks another for help and the one asked says “NO,” Jesus cries.” I stood to walk away with his words still working their way deeply into my heart. Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized who had just been ministered to, and it was me.
Several scripture verses came to my mind…one about entertaining angels unaware, another concerning when asked for your shirt, give your coat and cloak also, and the other of Jesus calling people to account about not helping Him when He needed help and being questioned, “when did we not” and He answers, “the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matthew 25:45).
After driving home with thoughts swirling in my mind of the activities of my day, especially my encounter with this gentleman, I could hardly wait to share with Erick and Noah what had happened. So as we sat down for lunch I told them the story. Noah raised those white-blonde eyebrows as he does when he thinks he has a fantastic idea and he asked, “is he homeless?” Then he said, “you are going to love this, and he is going to love this! Why don’t you go and ask him if he wants to live here with us?” The simplicity, genuineness, and trust of a child is truly priceless!
I continue to ask God to work in my heart, to purify it, to fill it with love. He continues to give me experiences that assure me He is answering. This has been one of those days I’ve felt quite worked on and for His loving care I am forever grateful. May this story open your heart to the goodness that lies in the hearts of so many others and may we all find the joy that can only be found in caring.