Wednesday, December 9, 2009
"How we view people is half of how we love them." - Koffijah
If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you have seen your share of panhandlers. For years I did what many people do when at a red light where a homeless person has staked their claim. I stared straight ahead and pretended not to see. But pretending not to see them doesn't make them any less there. This post is not about the hows and whys of people living on the streets. It's meant to be about loving people without judging them. That's what I attempted to do this past Monday...
Last Wednesday I shared my first attempt at the Ten Dollar Challenge. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, and the results were not exactly what I expected. This week wasn't much different, although I will say it was more personally gratifying.
I had a couple of ideas, both involving the five pre-packaged, banana nut muffins that sat in my pantry. I will probably attempt the other idea next week, but for this week I decided I would put together care packages, drive down the access road of I-10, and hand them out the first five homeless people I spotted. Sadly, finding five homeless people within 20 miles of my upper middle class neighborhood is quite an easy task.
The package included a muffin, banana, chocolate milk, a small amount of money and a note that said the following:
I don't know if it was choice or circumstance that brought you to this corner, but for the purposes of this note it matters not.
I just wanted you to know that on a day when perhaps 100 cars or more will pass you by and pretend you're not there, there is at least one person who sees you, and there is a God who loves you.
I know this isn't much, but if nothing else I hope it brightens your day a little bit.
Yeah, I know...I'm not usually a fan of Anonymous, but in this case I thought it was appropriate.
Like I mentioned, finding homeless folks in this town is not a difficult task. They can be found under most overpasses that are heavily traveled. And while my task was not difficult, it wasn't as easy as I had thought (hoped) it would be, because if I was traveling east, rest assured the person I wanted to bless was standing on the opposite side of the overpass facing west or vice-versa.
Every. Single. Time.
That's okay. I think that was God's way of letting me know He expected me to put forth a little effort in the endeavor.
The first man I gave a bag to gave me the standard smile and "God bless you", then immediately walked behind a pillar to inspect the contents of the bag. What happened next was my blessing. I watched him read the note. He then waved at me with what seemed a genuine smile to replace the practiced one. I waved, returned the smile and drove away.
The next man was young (mid to late 20's is my guess). I suspect he was just passing through town, escaping from colder climates north. His first reaction was the same as the first man's -- he walked behind a pillar to inspect the contents. His next reaction was quite different however. Instead of smiling and waving, he bent down and put both hands over his face. He remained like that for at least as long as I could see him in my rear view mirror. Whether in tears, in prayer or something else, I'll never know...
My next attempt was a woman sitting under an underpass holding a plastic Target bag. She didn't look like she lived on the streets. She looked as if she was waiting for a ride. (Which is incredibly dangerous, but I digress.) I tried to give her a bag, but she waved me off and said, "Merry Christmas, in case I don't see you before then!" She could have taken the bag, she chose not to. Perhaps hoping that someone who was more in need would get it instead. That made me smile.
Next came a seasoned veteran of the streets. He took his bag, thanked me and returned to his stoop.
Two bags left.
What I thought would be a two for one stop turned out to be much more. The two men standing at the intersection accepted the bags happily with a "Praise Jesus!" and a "Hallelujah!" Turns out, they were not homeless men at all. They were passing out flyers and raising money for a non-profit organization that "helps recovering addicts and homeless men and women restore their lives through the Word of God." According to their flyer, they provide free counseling, transitional housing, food and clothing. If this is a legitimate organization, I can think of no better way to express my gratitude than providing these two volunteers with a little snack and some pocket change.
It was a fairly painless process for me to provide a few folks with a snack and a note. To address the reasons why someone is on the streets in the first place can be an overwhelming, thankless, heartbreaking endeavor. May God bless their ministry.
To read more Ten Dollar Blessing stories, visit What I Learned Today. Just click on the gift box, peeps!