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I wasn’t planning on turning around. I was late already for a meeting at church. …an important meeting…to decide which charity to offer a sizeable gift that was willed to the church. But something tugged at me to take a second look at the rumpled figure on the curb near my car. Against my better judgment, I turned and looked at the man. He looked to be in his early thirties, dirty, unshaven, destitute. He looked down at the street in front of him and then up at me. Why me? Why now?
I expected a hollow look. That look of desperation that street people seem to practice to perfection. The look that says, “I need your pocket change more than you do.” But instead, he met my eyes with a growing smile. His eyes exuded a warmth that I usually associate with a generous man of means. A wealthy philanthropist. Or an uncle who provides you with whatever you need. But this man was a jobless, homeless beggar. What could he have to offer?
‘I must go,’ I thought. And yet his gaze held me transfixed as he arose and stood before me, his eyes now level with mine.
“Look,” I said, “I am late for a meeting.” I dug into my pocket for my loose change. I had all of 57 cents to give him, and I held the coins out in front of him.
His smile broadened, and he said, “I don’t want your money.” He looked down at his tattered boots. The smile was disappearing, and in its place, a serious, yet caring look took over his visage.
“My grandmother lives in Northview. She is not doing well, and I feel I must go to her. Spend some time with her. Brighten her day. Share a meal.” He looked down again, and then back at me. The man nodded in the direction of my car, and pleaded,
“Do you suppose you could give me a ride there? I know the way – 40 minutes on foot – but it is getting cold and dark to be walking in this part of town.”
I knew what the man meant. From here to Northview was a corridor rife with muggings and murder scenes, or so it seemed from accounts on the local news. I really couldn’t say no, so considering the danger, I offered him a ride.
Now, when I had made the decision to give the man a ride, my inclination was to speed and make this trip as short as possible. Get him there, and then get over to church. But something about the man’s demeanor made me relax. When he got in the car, he was purposeful and deliberate, closing the door slowly and carefully. He talked to me about his grandmother, turning his face toward me when his words needed emphasis. Circumstances had thrown the man and his grandmother together the year after her husband had died. He needed a place to stay near the summer job he took in Northview, and she needed companionship. It was heartening to hear how the two had come to adore and care for each other, across the generations.
I parked my car on the street and walked the man up to the house. He walked right in, and there was his round little grandmother in a chair near the front door. She beamed at the sight of her grandson, who leaned over and kissed her. The house smelled like a wonderful mix of foods – vegetable beef soup and warm bread. After the grandson introduced me to his grandmother, she invited me to stay for the meal. The meeting was starting now, so if I left right away, I would be no more than fifteen minutes late. But something compelled me to accept her offer. I sat down in the chair she pointed toward. A steaming bowl of soup was placed in front of me, and then we bowed our heads to give thanks. The street man turned to me, a warm smile on his face. He took a piece of bread from a plate, and then passed it toward me, saying, “Take and eat.”
Then my eyes were opened, and I recognized the man, as he disappeared from my sight.
Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the meeting at church, not knowing how I got there. I looked in amazement at those around me, and exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord! And I know where he wants our money to go.”