Sometimes, I feel tested and confused in life and have a day or two where I’m blue. Luckily, it is rather short lived, but I was in one of those spaces until yesterday. When I least expected it, there was God’s reminder of my own Blessings. I had been focusing only on my tests as of late. I call these my selfish times and they remind me to be more humble and accept my tests.
I first saw the homeless man, when I pulled into the parking lot of a large super-store…O.K…WalMart. I have never spent one night without a roof of some sort over my head. He was not standing visibly out in the open, where he could be easily seen, but rather off to the side. He sat on a wooden bench that almost seemed out of place near the large lot…but there he was. At first, it struck me odd that he was not standing closer to where all the cars were coming in.
I was not sure why he had even caught my eye at all, on his remote bench, as the parking lot was busy and I was being cautious. It was the first day in almost a month where the temperature and sun seemed to be in harmony and maybe he was enjoying it. The man was holding a small sign, which eventually caught my attention; it said nothing more than HOMELESS. He held it low on his lap. Perhap, he was worried about Security or local police chasing him away. It was then I decided to buy him some food and give it to him as I was leaving the parking lot. Inside I picked up a few prepackaged sandwiches and drinks, got my own toiletry items, and headed back out to my car.
From where I had parked, I couldn’t see him any longer. Maybe he had left. When I got closer, I could see that he was still seated in the same spot…in the same position, holding the sign in his lap. I wondered what I would say to this man. It was difficult to tell how old he was; he was so dirty. His ragged sweatshirt was torn and the soles were pulling off his sneakers, I could see that as I proceeded towards him. He spit onto the pavement in front of him with huge racking caughs and held up his hand not to come any closer.
“I have a bad cold,” were his first raspy words. “I’ve been sleeping in the woods.” My bag of food seemed inadequate, but I handed it to him anyway. I hadn’t seen a full grown man quite that thin in a long time. His blue eyes were direct and he didn’t look away, but stared right at me. Most of his front teeth were missing or badly decayed. He held such sadness in his eyes, that I involuntarily choked up. We chatted back and forth for a bit. I’m not sure why, because he was totally sober, I asked if he would stop drinking and he hesitated… then nodded agreement.
When he mentioned he had just been into WalMart checking out the cough/cold medicine and then rattled off the price.. .I knew he was telling the truth about not feeling well. If I had stopped and asked him what he needed on the way in, I could have gotten that for him while I was in there, but I hadn’t been that inciteful. It also occurred to me that maybe he was completely conning me. For some reason, he still struck me as sincere. I noticed a still burning cigarette on the ground next to the bench and asked him to try and stop smoking too.
My own brazenness amazed me! Who did I think I was asking this total stranger to stop drinking and smoking? Again, he nodded agreement. He acknowledged that the soft drink would feel good on his throat, but he didn’t know how much of the sandwich he could eat. I merely asked him that he “try” and felt compelled to mention how thin he was and that he needed to take better care of himself.
As I turned to leave, he called out to me softly. “Thank you for calling me Sir,” he said to me. My throat tightened. “God Bless you Miss.” No, may He bless you,” was all I could utter in reply. They were the most sincere words I had said all week. As I waited to pull out of the parking lot, I gave a final glance in my rear view mirror. The man was eagerly tearing open the cellophane on the roast beef sandwich.
And all of a sudden…I got it! There, but for the Grace of God…go I.
So, I ask all who read these words to make a resolve that we focus not only on our own issues/needs, but actively assist others whose station in life is even less than our own. There are so many who need help, now more than ever.