I said hey to him and he said hi back. My window was open and his sign read: Homeless, Anything Helps. As I drove down the road I thought of a poem entitled Okay by Lowell Jaeger and a discussion that I had with some coworkers about it. I thought about what I could do to help, what I should have done to help. An internal war waged within my being. A war of guilt, shame, and disgust. I thought of how I could turn around and take him to lunch and almost did so at several turns. "Who knows if he's even there still," I thought to myself. "He'll be fine, someone else will help him," I tried to convince myself. But I couldn't help thinking that Jesus is found in the "least of these." I did not feed Him when He was hungry, and the guilt and shame grew like a thorn bush around my heart. I imagined myself having a conversation with this man over lunch, him sharing his story. And I imagined his life without my having stopped for him. What were his holiday plans? Was the season even colder for him. I saw him crying himself to sleep, somewhere on a street downtown. My heart broke and nothing came out but a couple small icicles and a pebble or two. Why didn't I turn around? Why do I let fear and discomfort determine my actions?
I told myself if I saw another such person on the way home I would do something about it. I did see one as I passed another intersection ten or so blocks down the road. But again I convinced myself that it was too out of the way. Too inconvenient. He was facing the other way and I would have to turn around. HAVE TO TURN AROUND!? What remained of my heart fell like a paper weight made of glass onto a cold cement floor. I could not even turn around?! Could I have saved this man's life by giving him a temporary relief from sorrow and strife? I thought of who I am and who God has revealed Himself to be. I thought of how I was like a crying baby left out on the street. I was as good as dead with no one to help me. I could do nothing on my own to save myself but God did not leave me there. He saw my pain and He took it on Himself so that I might live. It was not easy for Him. It was more than just turning around. More than giving of earthly resources like money or food. It was giving His Son and enduring unimaginable pain. But He knew it would be worth it. He knew that through the pain there was gain.
So I prayed. I asked God to teach me to how to love as He loves. Then I thought, "Have I not been taught to love in this way already?" So I prayed for boldness. Boldness in love. I prayed that I might learn to be bold in the way that I love others. I don't want to be bold about foolish things that exalt myself. I want to be bold in ways that show people that they are truly cared for and truly appreciated. When I'm testifying about what and how my life was, I don't want it to be a shame to look back at. I want to know that I was bold in how I loved God's children. Every person who has lived on this earth was made in the holy and precious image of God. No one should be left out. No one should be excluded. Every person, man or woman, should be loved as a brother or sister.
I write this as a warning to my brothers and sisters. Do not let anything convince you that you are more important or valuable than anyone else. You are valuable and you matter so very much, but you must keep a humble heart. You must remember where you come from. Where you have fallen so that you can know how to help others up who are on the ground. Have a plan for when you come into contact with people you're uncomfortable with. Learn to love patiently and without hesitation or second thoughts. Don't let the world or anyone convince you that life isn't precious or that certain people don't matter. Everyone has a story to tell and sometimes all we need are listening ears and an open heart.