me and the homeless man
I had an experience yesterday I want to share with you.This is a decidedly religious post but even if you don’t believe as I do, or don’t believe in God at all, you might find this interesting.
First of all, the background. I’ve been looking for a cute summer dress for weeks with no success. Yesterday I was at it again. I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a well-groomed man, in his fifties I’m guessing, carrying a sign that has become somewhat of a mantra, “Homeless. Please help”. I drove right past him and into a parking space.
God often prompts me to take some action I wouldn’t ordinarily take, and when he does I’ve learned I might as well obey or I’ll be miserable otherwise.I didn’t even get to turn off the ignition. I backed out and drove back to the man. I rarely give to a homeless person because frankly I think most of them are panhandlers. But this particular man had a sad dignity about him. He was clean, freshly shaven and his sign was well done.He didn’t fit the typical appearance of a homeless person which is exactly why I took his self-proclaimed status as possibly accurate.
What would I say? Did I even need to say anything? I haven’t in the past. But I remembered what our interim pastor said a few weeks ago. “First contact, then communication”.
“O.K. I’ve got it, God”.
I drove up to the man and motioned him over. Here’s how it went. (I should warn you, there’s nothing extraordinary about our conversation.)“Hello.” “Hello”, he responded in a quiet voice. “Here’s the thing. I don’t know if you’re really homeless or not……. “ He interrupted me, “I am”. “Well, it doesn’t matter. Here something for you. I just want you to know that God really does care about you. If you’d visit my church, Forest Park Covenant Church, I know there are people there that will help you.” “Thank you'”, he said. “God bless you”. “No, God bless you.” As I said, nothing spectacular. I drove away and went to T J Maxx, just knowing God would reward me with a dress, an inexpensive one at that. I am so embarrassed to admit I really thought that way, but I did, if only for a second. I really am a mature Christian and know God doesn’t work this way, but still———. No, I didn’t find the dress. Not even close. That’s o.k. I left the store, got in my car and drove out of the parking lot. I looked for the man on the corner. He wasn’t there. I had been in the store under an hour. Where did he go? I assumed one of two possibilities. He went and bought a drink or some drugs, or got something to eat. Of course, there could have been any number of reasons he was not longer there. Does it matter? I like to think I did a good thing for him but I’m not at all sure. One thing that is sure is that it was a good thing for me. I’ve thought about that man a couple of times since yesterday and the whole concept of helping people when we’re not sure what our helping is going to do. If in fact it helps at all or only enables. What if they are panhandlers? What if they are nothing more than con men and women? Does that matter? We should respond as we feel led by God. That will mean that sometimes we will give some money and sometimes we won’t. All I know is that for that brief minute of our conversation, someone reached out to him whether he was sincere or not. Whether he was truly in need or not. I wished I had taken a little bit more time to think about what I’d say. I do think I could have said it better. But this was my one chance and I wanted him to know that God really did care about him but even as I said it, I was instantly reminded that it sounded way too much like the frivolous and worn out, “God loves you.” Who knows what he thought. Hopefully, my tone was such that he knew I was sincere and not just dishing out Christian jargon. As Christians it’s not up to us guess the outcome. That’s up to God. It’s only up to us to respond when we are prompted. I hesitated to share this story because I don’t want anyone to think I’m bragging. Trust me, it wasn’t much money at all. I was going to spend more than that on a dress. Actually, when I think about it, I could have and possible should have given much more. I only share it so if there is someone out there who wonders if they’ll look or feel foolish for reaching out to that homeless person standing on the corner touting a sign, I can tell you I don’t. Not at all. There were people who saw what I did and I could well imagine they might have shook their heads while mumbling under their breath, “How foolish.” Again, does that matter? Did I ever find my dress? No. But I came home and remembered that weeks earlier I had purchased a dress at Goodwill but forgot all about it, which shows how much I needed one, huh?. I took it out and tried it on. I fit perfectly and I really like it. You can decide for yourself if there is any conclusion to be reached from this. I know what I think.:) God Bless. (In case you’re wondering, sharing our resources, whether time, money, or things, is a great tool to beat depression. It takes the focus off ourselves and we feel good because we helped someone.It’s not a pill. It’s a “natural” way to elevate our mood, while helping someone else at the same time.This morning I came down with a virus and was pretty miserable for a while. When we’re not feeling well physically, our moods can drop and that gives depression an opportunity to become full-blown.. But today I was blessed with the memory of yesterday which kept me from feeling sorry for myself.)