On Saturday, several of us walked outside as a group to pick up our boxed lunches. We searched around to find a place to sit to enjoy the nice temperature. We had to walk down to an area a little outside of where most conference goers were sitting, near a stop for the public transportation. This meant that there were many “non conference” people passing through. Before we even sat down, all of us noticed two men who appeared to be homeless, sitting about a 50 yards away from us. One was stretched out on the ground, seemingly unaware of all the people around him. The other sat in a plastic chair beside him, several bags of his personal items propped nearby.
As we sat down, I had feelings of guilt at all the people scattered in the area, eating right in front of him. He was shabby looking, not at all kept or clean. He watching everyone around him, very observant of people. I felt sorry for him.
I’d love to say at this point that I hopped right up and sacrificially gave him my lunch. But I did not! If I have to be honest, I must tell you that my first thought was that I probably should be setting a good example to all these ladies with me since I was their pastor’s wife and all. (Real self serving, huh?) The second thought that crossed through my mind was not what would Jesus have me do, but what would my husband have done? He probably would have taken him a lunch. I wish I was as good as him. As I wrestled with these thoughts, one of the ladies with our group did go over and use her lunch ticket to take him a lunch. Wow! I probably should have done that. While she was gone, a lady from another church also took a lunch to him, which he set down beside his friend who still seemed a little out of it.
All of this was neat to watch, but the best was yet to come. I watched as he moved his friends lunch up closer to him, trying to get him to wake up, and making sure they both had equal food to eat. Soon, a lady from another church, came near where we were sitting with a large stack of Styrofoam trays to attempt to put in a trash can a couple of few feet from us. We watched her struggle, not able to get them in through the small opening at the top. Again, I ‘d love to say I got up to help with a servants heart. No! I sat, eating my lunch and still thinking about how sorry I felt for this man and trying to pretend not to smell the area around us, which we had decided early on was probably a rest room for men like these.
As she walked away to find another trash can, I saw this man running towards her. I was sure he wanted to save the trays to rescue any remaining food so I again felt guilty for not sharing mine. How wrong I was!! He ran over to her, gently took the trays from her hands, walked over to the trash can and actually took off the dirty top of that filthy can so that he could stuff the trays into the trash. I was amazed. Here was this man…somewhat unsightly, clothes hanging on him, hands filthy, unshaven, walking around in only dirty socks, no shoes in sight. He did what none of us would dare to do. He was acting as a true servant. I certainly was not going to risk getting dirty under my nails or on my clothes to take off this trash can lid.
Again, a few moments later, I watched as he came to the trash can to stuff down more trash, almost as if doing some house cleaning. His hands were covered in dirt, fingernails dark from not being washed. He stood only a few feet from me. My friend offered him her chips and I passed some fruit to him. I looked him in the face as he took it graciously, thanking us, and walked back to his seat. I realized for that moment, looking into his eyes, that I did not have pity on him….but perhaps him on me.
I do not know this man’s name. I don’t know his story. I don’t know if he had a spot to lay his head that night. I don’t know if he got to this place as a result of life’s hard blows, or from a series of his own poor choices. As I’ve had time to come home and get some rest, I’ve realized it does not matter. I felt like I looked into the face of God that day. Here was a man who acted out of compassion, with a true servants heart. He did not sit and ponder what he should do. He did not look around to see who was watching or worry what others would think. He did not look down at his clothes to determine how he could help in a way so as not to get messed up. Here he was….dirty, ragged, already probably at one of life’s lowest points, yet he acted humbly to meet a need at the very moment he saw it. I am ashamed that I could not do that same. I am touched by this man who I will never see again. He taught me at that moment far more than I ever could have imagined. Father, help me not to stay the same!!
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a
stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help
the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’