His long white hair and bushy beard were unwashed and a bit matted, and he sat on an overturned bucket by the stoplight. His misshapen cardboard sign simply said “Homeless. Anything helps.” I quickly ran down what I had in the car with me that I could give him: an almost empty canister of peanuts, and a half eaten bag of pretzels. I discarded these options as a bit too used, and as I was heading to the grocery store anyway, I thought to just get him something unopened and fresh. Bread, peanut butter, fruit, water and crackers. Surely that would get him through a few days at least. I prayed he would still be where I had last seen him as I drove back to that spot. He was—and there was another man standing there talking with him, which I thought was a nice gesture. Another giving soul. Little did I know as I parked at the nearby fast food restaurant that the white haired man would not actually be the recipient of the food bag—but would rather be the vessel God used to feed another.
As I walked across the grass to where these two men talked, the white haired man got up off his bucket, and stepped toward me with a, “You bring a bag full of food?” I responded that I had indeed. “Well,” he said, “I can’t take it...” This caught me quite by surprise for a brief moment before he continued, “…but I can get it to someone who needs it.” Well, good enough, I thought. At least someone who is hungry will have something to eat today—whoever that is, wherever they are.
It was then that the other man who was standing there said, “God bless you.” I looked up at his face, but it was not the clean, well-intentioned one I had expected to see. It, too, was dirty, and his hair was greasy under his cap. The smile he gave me was beautiful in spite of the missing and rotten teeth, and it lit up his whole face. I suddenly noticed none of the uncleanliness of either of these homeless men, but just sat in the goodness of God in this interaction, sensing I was about to be blessed, once again.
The man with the white hair turned around and passed the bag of food on to this other man, someone he seemed to have just met. “He’s the one who needs this,” he stated. The second man asked my name, which I told him. And I asked for his. “It’s Brandon.” Nice to meet you. “God bless you,” he repeated, and I returned the blessing. Walking back to my car, I was amazed at the unselfishness of the white haired man (who didn’t seem too interested in giving his name) who simply knew of a need greater than his own, and shared what he had been given. I observed a lot in that short minute or two, as is so often the case when obedience and sacrifice are chosen over plans or agendas.
Thinking back, I can remember exactly the faces, situations, and locations where I saw someone who needed help, but I kept on walking for one reason or another—in spite of the intense feeling/prompting that I should stop and lend a hand of some sort. It’s haunting. I have since determined that it’s worth the inconvenience, and perhaps even being taken advantage of at times, to help those who are in need however I can. It’s incredible. May you be encouraged to do the same.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts
should share with the one who has none,
and anyone who has food should do the same.”