I've been reading and hearing a lot about "making a difference" lately. I'm a few chapters into The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns and I have been listening to the Outlive Your Life video series at MaxLucado.com.
Richard Stearns says that "poverty is rocket science". It is so complex an issue and I agree with this as I pass the man on the corner with the "hungry" sign. Shouldn't this man get a job? If I give him money will he blow it on drugs or alcohol? Didn't Jesus say to feed the hungry? What would I say to him? What should I say to my kids when they ask what he wants?
In the video series Max points out that much of our success in life is due to our birthplace. "In the game of life many who cross homeplate were born on third base and many others, who are just as willing and capable, weren't even born on a team." So I'm a 3rd baser and that man on the corner, maybe he doesn't have a team. Or maybe he isn't willing and capable. I do not know, but I do know that I have be given much and much is expected.
Several years ago I was on my way to pick up my kids from school in Rochester NY. I got off the highway and stopped at a red light. Across the intersection is a man with a sign. I want to help. I have only change in my purse but sitting on the passenger seat is a loaf of banana bread that I had just baked. On an impulse I wave to the man. The light changes and he can't cross. I have to move because I am blocking traffic. I circle the block and come back. I tell him that I have no money but that if he really is hungry he can have my bread. I hand it out the window. Our eyes meet and I think he is ashamed or perhaps disappointed. He mumbles no thank you and heads off in the opposite direction. I am sad for him and for me and for circumstances. I threw my banana bread back on the seat and went to pick up my kids. On the way back home I notice the corner is empty.
Since moving to Colorado I see these these men up and down the interstate or in the Wal-Mart parking lot almost daily. Last week I read a lovely post entitled "The Man On The Corner" at the blog Graceful and I was inspired to try again. I didn't plan anything I just knew at some point it would happen.
Thursday we woke up to snow, and gray skies. The kids were thrilled. It was beautiful. The first snowfall signals the approach of a season I love. But then, I have a warm coat, a cozy house and heated seats in my car.
After having a lovely morning at Ladies Bible class I head up an exit to Wal-Mart to pick up a couple things. And there he is. A man on the corner with a sign that I do not bother to read. It is cold and windy, he must be frozen. We enter through the garden center which is filled with Christmas displays. I quickly collect the items I need, a bag of flour, snacks for the kids' lunchboxes, and some toilet paper. I wonder if he will still be there and determine what I will say. At the Subway behind the checkout I purchase a cup of coffee and stuff a bag full of creamers and sugar packets. We load the car, my 4 year old, completely unaware of her mama's conflicting thoughts and plan. We reach the corner and I roll down the window. "You must be cold" I say and "I wanted to give you this and tell you that God loves us all and offers everyone a chance to change." I hand him the coffee. His eyes look vacant. I hand him a $5.00 bill, hoping it isn't spent on pot. He says "Thank you and God bless." And I roll up my window and drive home.
I don't know whether I helped or enabled this man. Maybe a seed was planted. At the very least I shared a hot coffee on a cold day. To be honest the passing of a $5.00 bill out the window was easy, the coffee was a nice touch but it's the words I wonder about. It's the eye contact and the having to say something that was hard. But it was a good lesson for me in being bold with compassion. I won't be handing out money at every corner but I am keeping my eyes open.