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.