I had driven by him several times during the summer. With cardboard sign in hand and a grimace on his face, he would stand there for hours with the hot sun shining down on him. I found myself always in a hurry to get somewhere so all I managed to do was to make a mental note to myself to stop by Target to buy him a cap and a cold drink and bring them over to him one of these days. Weeks went by and when I finally made my way back to that intersection, he was no longer there. Another missed opportunity, I thought to myself. I recalled all those times when I found myself in a situation where I could have done something but didn’t. James 4:17 comes to mind, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” I remember one time when I was waiting in line at the grocery store, the lady in front me was fumbling to find enough food stamps to pay for the items the cashier had diligently rung up. She didn’t have enough so she asked the cashier to take out a few items. I thought I was doing my part by waiting patiently for my turn. Now looking back on it, I think, how could I have been so clueless and oblivious? Why in the world did I not offer to help pay for her groceries?!
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it,
it is sin for them. ~ James 4:17
Last weekend I drove by that corner again on my way to pick up my girls from their sleepover at grandma’s. There he was, with the same cardboard sign, but this time there was no hot sun, just a piercing autumn wind, and I could tell he was trying to stay warm under his jacket. I thought to myself, I have to do it this time. I would pick up the girls, buy some hot chocolate and bring it over to him on my way back. As I was getting closer to my parents’ house, I started to come up with all the excuses in the world not to go over there and talk to the man…It’s really cold outside…It’s not safe for the girls…What if it’s all an act?…What if people stare?…I can always come back another time… But I just couldn’t let it go. I felt the Spirit nudging me to just go talk to this man and as much as a part of me did not want to do it, I knew I had to do it. Before I could change my mind, I took the girls to Starbucks, bought hot chocolate for them and an extra grande with a pumpkin muffin for the new friend I was about to meet.
Even as I was driving back to that corner, part of me was wishing he had called it a day and left. But when I saw him standing there still, part of me was relieved. I parked as close to him as possible and told the girls to wait for me in the car. I walked over there with the hot chocolate and muffin in hand, having not a clue as to what I was going to say to him. I said hi and introduced myself and he did the same. I told him that I just came by to say hi and that if I were outside in this cold weather like him, I would want someone to bring me over some hot chocolate. He thanked me and we started chatting. Since his sign said that he was looking for work, I asked him if he had gotten any leads. He said he did but because of his criminal record, they fell through. As we continued to chat, what struck me most was that he repeated more than once, that it gets lonely. He mentioned that he tries to forget about it but inevitably, the loneliness comes back. We chatted some more and then I said I would keep an eye out for job opportunities and that I would pray for him.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity. ~Colossians 4:5
I remember being discouraged by others in the past when I tried to make conversation with a homeless man back in NYC, where I used to live. I clearly remember a lady telling me not to encourage him. Doubts had crept into my own mind and heart one time when my husband decided to give money to a guy standing in the street asking for a little change to be able to get home. I remember chiding him for giving the man so much when he’s probably lying about his situation and will be using that money to buy alcohol or feed whatever addiction he has. I still recall my husband saying that it’s not our call to make. Discouragement and doubt will always find their way into these situations, but I just have to trust that God is sovereign and is in control, and that He can use our obedience for His glory. Let’s say that the man was indeed lying about his circumstances, I can only hope that kindness from people like us will get him a step closer to repentance.
I don’t know what the next step will be but I hope that my reaching out to that man in the corner brought a little warmth to his heart on that cold day. I’m hoping that I can go back and share God’s Word with him at some point and hopefully connect him with a church. More than anything, I’ve learned a few important lessons from this experience. When the Spirit nudges me to do something, all I can do is obey just as Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22) to go to Jerusalem despite the difficulties that awaited him there. In Colossians 4:5, it says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” I need to ask for God’s discerning spirit to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve Him in my day to day. As I continue to walk with Him and submit to His will, my hope is to become a slave to righteousness as it is described in Romans 6:17-18, “…though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Have a blessed rest of the week!
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