I was tired of driving by seeing him struggling to stand with his head held down and a sign taped to his leg braces.

About a month ago I stopped. Only because I had to. Because the light was red. I quickly gave him all of the change I could scrounge up.

Today I was en route to Starbucks. As soon as I heard that the one nearest me was serving wine by 2pm I got my fanny off the couch to be the first in line.

I had every intention of bustin’ my butt to finish my book proposal (with the help of that vino I had my heart set on) when I came to that intersection.

There he stood. Well, that’s a generous way to put it. He didn’t look my direction and I didn’t want to look in his, but I couldn’t avoid it.

God nudged me and suddenly I pulled into the gas station, rolled down my window, and asked him if he’d like a bite to eat.

There was a brief moment of fear, anxiety, and a What are you doing? You don’t have time for this thought.

“Sure,” he said and I assisted him into my car. He left behind his backpack and a bottle of Mountain Dew sitting in the grass that has become his territory.

We pulled around the corner into Martin’s deli and I asked him if he would be willing to talk to me about his story if I bought him a hot meal. He agreed and went inside. Martin’s is our local grocery store for those of you who aren’t from around these parts

Over fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and a sweet tea, I began to ask questions and he began opening up more as time passed.

I got to hear Daniel’s story.

He shared that he graduated from my high school’s biggest rival. He’s 32, unemployed, crippled, married to a wife who’s living separately from him, and comes out to that corner everyday for almost 2 years in hopes of earning enough money to feed himself and pay for his motel room at Super6. I learned that he grew up with alcoholic parents and that he used to be addicted to prescription pain killers. I learned that in some ways, he and I aren’t much different; we both suffer from anxiety and like to give others the benefit of the doubt. I heard him talk of the cruel things people yell out of their car window when they drive by. He admitted how embarrassing and shameful it is to stand out there everyday. He expressed that he wants a job and doesn’t want to wait around for disability to come through, but he’s applied to every place within walking distance (or where his friends will drive him to). He’s gotten no offers. He doesn’t have a cell phone or vehicle which makes it all that much more complicated.

He said, “I don’t believe there’s much good left in this world. Except for a few people who do this kind of thing, like you.” I told him that somedays I agree it doesn’t feel like there’s much good left, but that I believe there is a God who is good. He said that he feels like he lives in Satan’s domain. Who was I to negate how he feels?

As he finished his meal and I ran out of things to talk about, he fixed his leg braces and we headed out.

I asked if I could pray with him before he got out of the car and he politely said that would be fine. I prayed for his circumstances and I prayed for his heart. I prayed for my eyes to continue seeing people the way Jesus does. I prayed for a better way.

Now I’m sitting here in Starbucks with that glass of moscato unable to concentrate on anything except for what just happened. I can see Daniel from the window actually. He’s no longer “the homeless man with crutches who stands on the corner.” He’s a face. A name. A story. A person. A child of God. And I’m a wreck. There’s an ache in my belly and the most awkward struggle happening inside.

What can we do for injustice? How can we help improve someone’s life in a practical way? What if he lied about it all? Who am I to even question or judge? 

There’s got to be a better way. Turning to you, Jesus. Help me to do the next right thing. Help us all to do the next right thing. Bring your Kingdom here to Earth.

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21 comments

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I drive by him everyday on my way to work. And was always curious of his story and how this happened to him. I always say a quick prayer for him as I drive by or sit at a the stop light. I hope Daniel is able to have hope that one day he won’t have to stand at that corner anymore. And know there are still good people out there and ignores the negative ones. Thank you for putting a name and a story to him!

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I hope so too, Devin. Thanks for taking a minute to read this one. If you hear of ANY desk job openings or something that could work for him, let me know and I will personally make sure to take him to an interview or something! XO

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Thank you for being the person that stopped. Thank you for showing him grace. There are plenty of times I See them on the side of the road and just smirk at them and wonder why they can’t just stop being lazy and get a job. I am sure a majority of them physically can’t & have to rely on the kindness of others. God put you at that red light today and you were exactly who he needed.

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I hear you, Katelyn! I admitted to him that I have always looked at homeless people and wondered how they got themselves in that position. But I learned today that sometimes people don’t get themselves there. That unfortunately life happens and series of unfortunate events are a real thing and not all mistakes are easy to bounce back from. When I pulled away I told myself that it doesn’t matter if someone’s faking it or not (because of course that thought crossed my mind too)…my only job is to follow Jesus’ footsteps. So that’s the mission I’m on now. Thank you for believing for better days ahead for him alongside me.

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You’re amazing 💕

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Aw, love you Nat! 🙂

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I’m the barista that took your order and checked your ID at Starbucks today. I’ve followed your Instagram and your blog for a while but I didn’t want to be “that person” you randomly run into who knows you from the Internet. Anyways, thank you for sharing this. I see Daniel, and a few other people, out on that corner almost every day, and after a while I start to feel like there’s nothing I can do. There’s an older man who is regular here who often stops to talk to him, buy him coffee or food, or even give him rides. There are rumors that Daniel is a “fake,” that his mom has posted online about her son lying for money and sympathy. But every time I hear from the people who stop to talk to him, I hear about how he is discouraged, how he appreciates support from people, how he is trying. I’m glad he shared some of his story with you and you shared it with us, because it’s worth hearing. Thank you for reminding me to not become numb, but to allow my heart to be broken.

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Megan! How cool that you were the barista! Next time you should totally say something 🙂 even if you are “that girl” who knew me from the internet. I would’ve loved to chat with you more!! Thank you for what you’ve heard, for sharing about it, and for choosing a soft heart no matter what the truth may be.

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Amanda, this was absolutely touching. My boyfriend and I are always taking trips into NYC since it is so close and we both have such compassion towards the people who are in such unfortunate situations but like most I don’t just want to give them money. So last summer we took it upon ourselves to create blessing bags with things most people would need. We did so much research to really figure out what would be good items to give. A month or so later we venture into the city with backpacks full of blessing bags and just wandered, every time we came across someone who was in need we said hello and offered them a bag. Sometimes we had conversations sometimes we didn’t but it was honestly the most amazing feeling. We still keep a couple in our cars to pass out to people if we happen to see them on our drives. If only more people had compassion for human beings that happen to be down on their luck.
xo, Kyla

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Thank you for sharing that, Kyla! I LOVE the idea of blessing bags. 🙂 Way to take action!

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Yesterday I told you I hope becoming a doctor is “the right thing to do”. When I say that I mean I hope it is what God wants me to do. I hope I can help people in the right ways by becoming a doctor. This story. This is why I question it. I look at the world, and I wonder how we have so much wealth yet so much poverty. I know that there is God and therefore there is hope. But some days there just seems to be less hope than others. A few Sunday’s ago a guest pastor talked to our church about how it would be easier to live a Christian life in a Christian world. But we don’t live in a Christian world. So we have to try to live a Christian life in a non-Christian world. That really spoke to me. I feel like it is easy to like people who are like you. It is easier to reach out to people who are in similar situations. But how you reached out today is how we all need to reach out all the time. Sometimes I feel like no amount of time or money will make a difference. But I still believe enough love can change this world. As always thanks for sharing your story and heart Amanda.

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I love that. Yes, we do have to try and live out a life that’s entirely abnormal and often looked at as “weird” in today’s society. I agree that it’s overwhelming when we see how big the need is, but God has blessed you and given you gifts and passions for a reason. I know that as a doctor you will touch many lives in profound ways!!!

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This is such a wonderful post! So many times when I see people standing on the corner like that I want to stop but somehow convince myself it’s not a good idea. Thank you for the inspiration to try to mirror Jesus in how we help others and for reminding me that the small things we can do really matter so much!

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Amen! Thank you for reading and taking the time to reflect on that truth, Kelsey. 🙂

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Amanda, I just love your heart. I just found your blog through Kelsey and I’m so glad that I did. Props to you for being brave and doing such a bold thing to care for someone in the name of Jesus. What a light you were. Whether it’s true or not, you loved him like Jesus does which is the most important thing. My husband and I often talk about what we can do to help and prayed hard about it. He’s led us to become foster parents to hopefully help kids in bad situations not become what their parents are/were…break the cycle. Anyway, I could go much deeper but will spare you 🙂

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Kelli,

Thanks so much for your kind words. That’s SO cool that you and your husband are foster parents (or going to be soon!). E and I both feel called to foster and adopt. Selfishly, I’d like to foster now, but I know God has been telling me to be patient. In the meantime, the best thing I (or anyone) can do is love others like Jesus.

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Hi Manda! Just came across your blog, and I loved reading this post! I also live in Chicago and related a lot to the message you shared in this story. It breaks my heart seeing folks like Daniel, and it’s led me to reflect on how to, as you stated, “improve someone’s life in a practical way.” I’ve worked as a corporate recruiter for several years and feel compelled to volunteer with those experiencing homelessness by helping with resume writing and holding mock interviews sessions. A company I previously worked at partners with a non-profit called Back on My Feet (http://www.backonmyfeet.org/), and I really enjoyed volunteering with them…you should check them out! 🙂 Back on My Feet recruits members who are experiencing homelessness at shelters and enrolls them in a running program three days a week. If members have a 90% attendance rate in the running program after one month, Back on My Feet moves them to the next phase in the program called Next Steps, which links up members with job training programs, housing resources, employment referrals, etc. Your story reminded me of advice that a Back on My Feet employee shared with volunteers, which was to acknowledge someone who was homeless even if you didn’t have anything to give because the feeling of being ignored day after day really takes a toll. God bless you for stopping and helping…take care! 🙂

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