After my recent post about my dad, I started thinking about looking for ways that I can work with/for the poor and underprivileged, since this was what my dad used to love about me. It is so easy to feel God’s presence when doing His work. I am unemployed now and find myself filling my days with exercise, housework, errands, and social time. Even thought I feel busy, I don’t feel like I’m getting much accomplished.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take my bicycle to an area on the greenway that I haven’t ridden in years in order to avoid the hills on the trail near my home. I parked near the trail and headed north, under an overpass of a very busy street. As I increased my speed and started to feel the first chilly fall air of the year on my face, I nearly ran over the feet of a homeless man who was sleeping under the overpass. I narrowly missed him and took a deep thankful breath that I avoided an accident, and continued riding. For the next couple of miles I didn’t think about him again, but as I started the return to that bridge I though about how he must’ve been cold, sleeping in the 50 degree weather that night. I decided that if he was still there I would stop and talk to him, offer breakfast at the nearby McDonalds.
The sun was shining brightly, warming the day quickly. As I passed under the bridge again, there were now two city employees wearing orange vests doing some type of utility work, but no sign of the homeless man. There was a gentleman ascending the stairs leading to the street level, but I couldn’t tell if he was the same person. So I rode ahead. I passed my car and rode another few miles in the other direction. But when I finally headed back to my car, I felt pulled to check the bridge one more time. I approached the area more slowly that time, looking for the man who’d been sleeping outside. I only saw the same man who was climbing the stairs earlier, wearing a loose-fitting jacket and tie. I stopped and excused myself, then asked if he was the person who was sleeping under the bridge earlier that morning. After confirming that he was the same person, he introduced himself as Robert and asked my name. I told him if he would like to walk to McDonalds that I would go put my bike on my car and meet him there to buy him some breakfast. He smiled and started walking.
The employees at McDonalds looked at Robert like he was familiar and didn’t seem thrilled to have him in their establishment. He simply ordered a small coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I asked Robert to sit and eat with me that morning. He went to wash his hands and then got our napkins, my straw, and some salt and pepper for both of us while I selected a table. I could smell alcohol on him, but otherwise he was clean and appeared well-dressed even though his clothes were too loose on his slight frame. I had no idea what we would talk about over breakfast but sat across from him and started to divide the food on the tray. He looked me in the eye and gently took my hand started to pray. He thanked God for the opportunity to eat a hot meal. He asked God for strength to stop drinking. He asked God’s blessing for me and thanked God for giving me the guidance to stop and speak to him under that bridge. It was a powerful moment.
We started to eat and I thanked Robert for agreeing to have breakfast with me, a perfect stranger. That Tuesday morning, Robert was a blessing for me, not the other way around. He never asked for anything, but swallowed what little pride he had left, and allowed me to meet a need for him. That was so easy for me, a few dollars. I felt as though my dad knew my desire to go back to those days in high school when I loved to work with the poor, and placed Robert literally right in the middle of my path for me that fall morning.
Robert is sixty-three years old, his wife died in a car accident several years ago, and they never had children. He was injured in a work related accident and now gets a disability check for about $700/month. Robert struggles with alcohol addiction, like so many people, but has no one to help him to get back on his feet. He told me he found a place to live, starting Saturday, for $400/month and he thinks he will be able to make it work if he can find employment for a few hours a week and stay away from the liquor store. I really hope things work out for Robert. He was such a gentleman.
Every person is worthy of respect. Everyone has a story.