He stood on the corner of 102nd and Seminole Boulevard. One word on his piece of cardboard declared his plight.
Don’t step back from troubled people God had told me days before when I had backed off from a troubled woman at a motel in Tennessee. He promised there would be another opportunity to reach out.
My opportunity stood not far from my car as I waited for the light to turn green.
But I have this errand to run, I thought.
How quickly I could make excuses. And I certainly shouldn’t give him money. He might use it on drugs. Besides I don’t have any cash on me.
As I drove to where my errand was, I couldn’t get the young man on the corner out of my mind.
What should I do, Lord?
The thought came to go to the Burger King up the street and buy him some food and bring it to him.
I thought of how easily I have ignored the homeless. And even now a part of me wanted to continue to do that. My car automatically headed for home instead of toward the Burger King.
Then I did something I knew was from the Lord.
I turned around.
I made a U turn and drove toward the fast food establishment. Once inside I ordered a Whopper with cheese and a strawberry shake. This was what I would order there, so I figured I could eat it if the man had already left his post.
As I turned left onto 102nd, I saw him still standing there with his “hungry” sign on the other side of the street.
I drove a little ways down the road and did a U turn and then pulled into a nearby parking lot.
“Here’s some food,” I said after walking briskly up to him. I handed over my meager offering.
He didn’t immediately start eating but held the food in his hands and said a sincere “Thank you.”
I asked his name, and he said “Mitchell.”
He told me about his situation of living in a tent with his girlfriend and how he couldn’t find a job. He seemed a little slow to process, possibly with mild mental retardation. I concluded it would be hard for someone like him to find a job. He looked young—around 21 years old.
I directed him to come to my church the next day if he chose to and ask about the benevolence ministry. He asked where it was and expressed that maybe he’d be able to do that.
He affirmed that he was a Christian, and I asked him if I could pray with him. He eagerly said, “Yes.” I prayed with him touching his arms with both of my hands. When I was finished, he said a loud “Amen.”
I hugged him goodbye wishing there was more I could do to help. He expressed that his friend and his girlfriend were hanging out nearby, and he walked away perhaps to share his food with them. He still had not taken a bite.
After meeting Mitchell, I saw a couple more homeless people shortly after in the grocery store on the way home. I didn’t feel led to reach out to them except with a smile. Yet I thought that if I reached out to every homeless person I saw, I could stay busy all day. My heart felt overwhelmed, and I prayed my reaching out to Mitchell wasn’t about easing my guilt over my having so many blessings and not having to worry where my next meal came from. I wondered if I had really made a difference. There were so many hungry, hurting people wandering around the streets of our county. I helped them in my work with the mentally ill, but reaching out on the streets was out of my comfort zone.
Once again I determined to listen in the future when God directed me to reach out.
And when the next opportunity to touch a life and learn a name and pray a prayer came, I wanted badly to let go of being self-absorbed and be willing to stop what I was doing and turn around to reach out to someone in trouble.
Later that little story about the starfish came to mind as I pondered how reaching out to one or a handful of homeless people in the streets could change anything.
I remembered the last line of the starfish story as I thought about Mitchell. “It made a difference to that one.” *
Here is a song about reaching out with the love of Christ.
“With Every Act of Love” by Jason Gray
*To read the whole starfish story click the link below: