Saturday, January 3, 2009

More on Resolutions and Responsiveness

I had an experience with a homeless individual down in Columbus a couple of weeks ago that left me both happy and heart-broken with myself. I resolved several years ago to not be a let down any longer. Let me explain.

A few years ago just before Christmas, I was at a nearby gas station fueling my car when an older Hispanic couple pulled up to the pump on the other side of me. I could clearly see that they could use a financial boost and was prompted, for me it was by the spirit, to pay for their gas, a whole tank. I failed to do so, coveting my families' money since it was the holidays and we obviously needed one more present under the tree and had bills to pay and blah, blah, blah. I had several opportunities to help this couple, who obviously had 3 of their grandkids in the back seat of their well-traveled, beat up, 1987 maroon Chevy Impala, but battled, reasoned, and justified in my mind why I needed the 30 to 40 bucks it would take to bless this family with a tank of flippin' gas more than they did!

Anyway, long story (which mine usually are) shorter, I failed to help this family, selfishly hanging on to my money cause Lord knows, it would have spun us into bankruptcy if I were to have been obedient to what the spirit was telling me to do! To make things worse, I had witnessed the couple digging into the front seats of their car for change and also noted that they had pumped a whopping $2.07 of gas into their car, which maybe got them to the Toledo, Ohio line 3 miles down the road. I drove away from that incident sobbing, praying for forgiveness, and for the Lord to give me a second chance to do the right thing when the opportunity arose again. I prayed for the discernment in the future to be more sensitive and responsive to when I am being called to help someone that sincerely needs the help. Fast forward.

I walk into a McDonald's on the west side of Columbus in not so nice a neighborhood to use the restroom and, ironically enough, to buy another coffee to continue the cycle. As I enter the restroom I note there is one person in there with his back to me just to the right of the hand dryer on the wall in front of me in a very soiled cartoon character coat with the hood up, in baggy jeans, wearing well worn work boats with no laces and no socks, as the horrible stench of excrement, like in someone's pants not from someone relieving themselves in the toilet, punches me in the nostrils like a right jab from Mohammed Ali. I walk past and go to the urinal to do my business. I hear the guy fumbling with some change behind me and think to myself, "here we go" as the guy asks me if I have any change. The hastiness and harshness of that thought quickly fades though as I get this clear leading in my heart that I am, in some way, supposed to help this guy.

So, I listen as he tells me he needs just a little more change to buy a coffee or something to eat. As I had left Toledo early that morning it had been snowing and freezing rain. It was a treacherous drive down to Columbus, but as I got closer, the snow and ice had changed to a cold, hard rain. He tells me he had slept out in the rain last night and could use something warm to drink or eat. The leading within me grows stronger. I tell the "guy", as I'm washing my hands, my back still to "him" and not yet having seen "him", to let me finish up and we'd go get him something to eat. He says he could use a couple of bucks for the bus to get across town as well. I turn to dry my hands on the wall before me, the pungent odor of excrement now fresh in my nostrils again, and see "him" for the first time. He's a younger guy, around 20 I'm guessin', with a long narrow, bearded face, blonde wirey hair, tall, and thin, but with bright, blue eyes. It bothers me that I only know "him" as "him" so, I look him directly in the face and ask, "What's your name." He tells me it's Jesse. I tell him my name is Rick and that it is nice to meet him and tell him, come on, let's go get you some food.

We step up to the counter and I tell him to go ahead and order whatever it is that he would like. He orders a meal and drink, I my coffee. I order the stuff to go. It comes to about 6 bucks and I give the woman at the counter a 10. She gives me my change back and I hand it over to Jesse. She brings our orders to us and I look Jesse in the eyes again and place my hand on his left shoulder telling him I have to move on with my day, but to "be well". Kinda trite and, I'm not sure what he thought of that, but in my head I was thinking for him to do his best to survive and praying in my head for him for the Lord to somehow bless his life. I exit McDonald's and get into my car and look up back into the restaurant to see Jesse sitting down in a booth by himself to eat.

I drive away back towards the entrance to the highway to head on to my next stop second guessing my actions, or the possible lack thereof. Did I do enough for him? Should I have sat and talked with him as he ate? Was there something else I was called to do for him in those moments that I had missed? Was there another need I could have taken care of? I take solice in the fact that I at least had done something for him, not the least of which was to offer him some dignity, which I wholeheartedly tried to do, and Jesus's words, "whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me" come to my mind. Yet, I still weep. I weep wondering if I should have taken a few more moments of my time, which I consider so precious, to get to know more about Jesse than just his name. I drive away crying, more for myself than Jesse, both happy and heart-broken with myself.

Please don't take this post as my boasting. It is far from that. I am as failed as they come, but humble and smart enough to admit it. What I am seeking to do in my own life is to have a greater awareness and sensitivity of those needs surrounding me in every day life and not to be passive about them. To stop and take the time to do something, whatever that may be, for someone in need, where I am able. If we all tried to do so, to be more sensitive to what is going on around us and actually care enough to intervene, when and were we are able, what a difference we could make for humanity. I pray I don't miss out on the opportunities I feel the Lord presents me with to make a difference in that fashion.

This is a great song by Brandon Heath, one of my current favorites, that really is at the heart of how I feel about myself and what prompted this post. I don't want to "keep missing". I pray you'll take the time to click on the link below to watch and listen.


Mike Fox said...

Rick - What an amazing gesture for someone less fortunate. I'm sure Jesse appreciated the food and the extra cash - and I hope that he put the money to good use. You have a very kind heart and inspire all of your readers to do more good deeds!

Anonymous said...

OK, so you made me cry again!
Love you, GG

Rick said...

Sorry Mom. It was not my intention to either boast, convict anyone, nor make anyone sad. Simply, to help us all be more sensitive to acting on someone else's behalf, for the sole purpose of their betterment, where and when we have opportunity.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing. This has caused me to examine my own heart when it comes to "the least of these"


Anonymous said...

Hey Rick, you do not know me, but I was googling for the "Get Luckey 5k run in Toledo, OH" and your blog came up and for some reason I started reading some posts and well, this one is the one that I read fully. I was inspired and I realized by your post that well, I assume that you are a christian, but maybe not. Anyways, keep seeking Jesus and keeping your eyes open to ways you can be Jesus to others. Are you running the 5K in Toledo this Saturday then? My name is Jessica and I am from OH. If you want to get back to this post email me at -