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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Your heavenly father knows..." -Jesus Christ

Twenty miles left to my office, I had made a quick left at the last light to avoid traffic. The last thing I needed, I thought, was to stop at the county line. But the lady on the corner caught my eye. She had pulled back her long, gray hair, showing off a frowning face, tan and wrinkled from a life lived under the sun. Her crow's feet framed eyes followed the cars that passed her. She held a sign.
"Homeless. Anything appreciated," it said, scratched in black marker across a cardboard slate.
I groaned a little. Searched for excuses. I was drawn to her, though I let my car roll passed her.
"I don't have anything I don't need," I grumbled. "And if I stop, I'll be late to work."
But I swerved onto the road's shoulder anyway. "What am I doing?" I parked, put on the flashers and searched my car. "I have nothing to give."
I ripped open the top of my console, where I found a bunch of change. I took two fists full and got out of the car.
"Excuse me, ma'am?" my shoes sunk into the sand while I walked up to her. She turned to me.
"It's not much," I said. "But this is for you."
I held up my fists, filled with change; her eyes welled up and she held out her hands.
"Thank you," she said. "God bless you." She fumbled with her bag and her fists full of change and I got back in my car.
While I drove, I felt good. But I wondered whether I had done the right thing. By lunchtime, I got my answer. I walked to a nearby café, ordered my food and walked to the register.
There, the head chef met me.
"Here you go," he slid the plate across the counter. I slid some cash toward him, but he pushed it back.
"Keep it," he said. "Today, lunch is on us."


The Hickman Six said...

Great post Arleen. Thanks for sharing that with us. The most common thought in my mind when I was faced with these situations in the past was "are they really hungry? what are they really going to do with the money?" I heard a Bishop, who worked with Mother Teresa for many years, speak about it this way. He said "When I come to judgement, I'd rather hear Jesus say, 'that woman wasn't really homeless, you got duped!', rather than 'you didn't feed me when I was hungry.'" After I heard that, my life was ruined! I could no longer pass anyone! I find myself switching two and three lanes sometimes!

The only thing that I would add or question, would be, is materials and/or money enough? Is that really what the poorest on our streets need? thoughts?

Arleen Spenceley said...

Thanks, Ennie! My urges to stop for homeless folks started similarly. Right after I finished reading the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, I was like, "Shoot! How could I NOT stop?"

You bring up a really good point, though. What DO the poorest on the streets really need? Materials like clothes and food are good and money can be good, depending on parts of their situation that we'd really have no way of knowing without getting to know them. And I think that's part of it. Instead of handing someone money with which I hope they buy some food, it would be sweet to walk around downtown Tampa with a few friends and say "Hey, are you hungry?" and take some of whom we meet out for lunch. Giving of our time to show a person that we care and that we're there might be part of the love we shouldn't limit to just people who look and live like we do.

Matthew said...

Ennie, I think you ended your comment with a great question.

"[I]s materials and/or money enough? Is that really what the poorest on our streets need?"

I think that while it is important to provide for people's basic material needs, that is NOT enough. What many of these people really need as much as anything is to know that they have value and dignity. They need someone to listen to them and to be a real friend to them. They need someone to be Christ to them, that they might really come to know God’s love for them. Working at AndrĂ© House, I have been blessed with many opportunities to build relationship with some of the people that come through our building.
What I’m not so sure about is how a person does that when it’s not built into their job.
Any ideas?