For me it is not very hard to look at an orphaned child and have my heart hurt for their plight. Afterall, young, exceptionally vulnerable children are naturally those you think of who need nurturing-- especially those without a family, a home, a hot meal, a warm bed. But for the most part-- I am not seeing orphans around where I live and so it is easy to forget about them while I go about my day.
But what about the homeless? A few days ago as I got off the freeway, I was shocked to see a homeless man sitting on the side of the road. Not shocked at the man per se, but shocked to see that he had set up camp under the trees at the off ramp. Was this even legal? His sad, tired, scruffy, dirty face etched on my heart an ache for him that would not go away.
But still--- I tried to forget. Why? Because I am busy. He is a grown man that should be able to take care of himself. I am a mother of fourteen. Where is his own family? I home school. It's not my responsibilty.
But. But. But. But....
I couldn't forget. I just couldn't.
So I purposefully got off that same exit last night to see if he was still there. And he was.
Why wouldn't he be? After all, I had seen his campfire, his camping chair, his plastic blanket, his trash bag of stuff just the day before. Of course this was his home. I pulled over.
What are you doing, I thought to myself? What if he is dangerous? What if he is drunk? What if, what if, what if?
I quickly walked up to him and handed him some money. "Could you use a sleeping bag?"
"Oh wow, that would be nice."
"Well okay then. I'll be back tomorrow." And I left.
What would it matter if I was a few days off I thought and so I forgot about him as I went about my comfy day drinking my coffee, sitting on my soft couch, wearing my slippers, washing my family's clothes, feeding my dogs, homeschooling my kids. You get the picture, right?
And all day he went without.
This evening we had a nice dinner of leftovers-- rice, chicken, ham, green beans. We didn't finish them all so my plan was to throw them out. No biggie. And then I stopped..... because I heard.
Christine, that homeless guy would like a hot meal. Pack the leftovers up for him.
No God he probably already ate. He probably isn't even there. Somebody already probably stopped and gave him a burger. Besides, it is sprinkling outside and I have Christmas shopping to do. Maybe another day..... Maybe another day.
Christine, he would appreciate this food tonight. Take it to him.
This went on for a few minutes. Back and forth. And praise Him that I finally listened... the stubborn girl that I am. I packed up the food and asked my kids to help me pack up some things for him. A sleeping bag, a pillow, toiletries, a food package with water bottles, fruit, napkins, and don't forget the hot leftovers. Not much-- but oh so much to him, I'm sure. Adam gathered up some of his clothing, clean socks, towels, and wrote him a card. And then me and two of my daughters went to take these things to this homeless man--- hopefully he would be there.
He was. And as we handed him one thing after the other, he kept saying that we were his three angels. I asked, "What is your name? Anything we can pray for you about?"
"Ben. My name is Ben." He smelled the pillow as he caressed his face against it. "You know I have eight grandchildren. I have a sick friend over there in the bushes who I bought a tent for-- he may not make it through the night he is doing so bad. You can pray for him. Pray for my kids. Thank you again. Thank you."
No thank you, I thought. How strange to see him thanking us when in reality we were the ones being blessed. Indescribable-- how close I felt to Jesus at that moment. Simply, indescribable.
Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Ben seemed especially fond of the pillow-- as he inhaled the fresh scent of the pillow case we could sense how much he looked forward to laying his head down to sleep tonight. We said or goodbyes-- though we wanted to do more. It was hard to leave-- yet it was awkward to stay.
"Anything else we can do for you Ben?"
"Well.... a pair of shoes would be so nice. See how old my shoes are."
"Done-- we can do that."
As we got in the car, we saw Ben sit down and rub his face on the pillow once more as he began to cry. Tears began to slide down our own cheeks. He seemed so content in his own little world with that pillow. I felt compelled to give him a little money too and my daughter wanted to run out and hand it to him. When she gave it to him we could tell that his emotions had gotten the best of him. We wanted to let him privately enjoy his few new belongings. He continued to cry as he hugged onto his pillow.
As we drove away, we wished that it was us who had done the hugging. Because even though we think we gave him so much, we each feel like a hug would have meant so much more to him.
I share this tonight, not to toot my own horn because this act was not of my own. Remember, I'm the one who can easily love the cute, little orphan-- but a dirty, old, homeless man-- well that is so much harder-- for me. But God had different plans. He has different plans.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Ben needs love too. And God used my family to show him that love-- that is all. Ben needs to know that there are people who care because there is even a greater God who cares so much more. He needs to know that he can put his hope in a God who loves Him.
Please join me in prayer tonight for Ben and for his friend. I am calling a local men's home tomorrow to see about getting him off the streets and into a warm home. I hope that I can set aside some time to go back over to where he lives and get to know him. Does he even want to live somewhere else? Would he like to join us at church? Maybe even join us for Christmas dinner?