When you encounter a homeless person what do you think?
Personally I usually want to ask them about their story. I want to know where they came from and how they ended up in this place. I try to suspend my judgment; I try to see them with Jesus' eyes. It is hard at times no all the time. I live in an area where I don't regularly see homeless people. There are people who do not have homes but it isn't in your face like when you are in a city.
Two weeks ago I ended up in Philadelphia. In an area I am pretty familiar with. There are always people begging along this highly traveled commercial strip of road. Someone caught my eye this day. He stood differently. He was pretty well dressed. His back was facing me. So I turned to read his sign once we passed him. Father of 2 just laid off need food God Bless. I looked at his face. This man really needed help. You could tell he was uncomfortable being there. So I told Paul let's get him a gift card for some food. If we didn't have the baby I probably would have picked him up and taken him to a food store. This may have resulted in my own demise but I am telling you he was different. I wanted more than ever to hear his story. Not only for my own information but because I think he needed to tell it, to be heard. I also wanted to ask where his kids were. So we decided it wasn't great but we would buy a gift card for a fast food place in the parking lot on the way out and it was his.
Then we got tied up in debating if we should buy this new crib/toddler bed. We ended up spending what felt like hours debating this and another purchase. I couldn't think I was all befuddled because my mind was swamped with thoughts of this guy who needed help. We ate lunch while in the furniture store. All I could think about were his hungry kids. I couldn't shake the look in his eyes. It reminded me of the first trip I took to Target after returning form Africa and quietly hyperventilating so my friends wouldn't see. How could I think about buying a basket full of crayons and markers when there are people how need to eat? Maybe he was a sociopath and faking it for his own gain. I doubt it though.
My point being what do you do in this situation? Do you just drive on by? Do you stop to talk to him? Toss change at his feet?
So we left and of course he was gone. I can't shake the feeling that I failed Jesus that day. I could have put his hunger above my need to pee. That is why we didn't stop because I needed to use the bathroom. Once we had the baby in the store we weren't leaving again. I didn't just fail Jesus, I failed my faith and in some ways my daughter because in that moment I failed to show her how we are supposed to love our fellow human beings.
Today I am grateful for the pain of noticing my shortcomings.
May you be blessed by listening to another person tell their story.