Almost every evening as I head home from work, there is a homeless veteran conveniently perched at the end of the highway exit where cars line up at a red light. He is there in the cold and snow, the clouds and sun. At first I felt compassion for the guy and wondered how I could help, but as he appeared day after day, week after week, I began to get angry.
“Why don’t the police pick this guy up for panhandling? Isn’t loitering against the law? Don’t they have shelters for these people!?” I avoided eye contact with him, made sure my windows were closed and my doors were locked and just stared at the traffic light, willing it to turn green.
As I arrived home, thoughts of him would fade as my three rambunctious boys ran to meet me and began demanding every second of my attention from the moment I opened the door. Sometimes he would pop into my mind here and there; other times I would forget about him until the next time I drove home.
Little by little my anger softened and I began to wonder if there was anything I was called to do for this man. One day I passed him an apple and a banana I hadn’t eaten that day, just to ease my conscience. I recalled the proverb: “Give the man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach the man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Having worked in a downtown area before, I had also been advised not to give people money, lest they spend it on drugs or alcohol, but rather, if they say they need food, buy them the food. All these thoughts ran through my head as I considered what I might do to help.
Not getting any clear direction, I went about my daily life. Sometimes it would rain and he wouldn’t be at his usual post and I would inadvertently sigh in relief. But then I began pondering something my dad repeated over and over from childhood into adulthood: “God can never be outdone in generosity.” How many times had I wondered how I was going to pay for something, and a side job dropped in my lap? Why, just the other day our toilet was leaking into the wall and a random check from the bank arrived in the mail. They said they made a mistake in our mortgage payout and guess what, it was almost enough to cover the plumbing repair.
So how does that relate to this poor, old veteran? I mean, I couldn’t possibly be called to give him a handout every time I see him, right? I can’t make a difference in this man’s life. No matter what I do, he will most likely still be troubled and homeless …
To tell you the truth, I still have no idea what I can do to help this man, nor why his plight weighs on me, but the one thing I don’t want to do is nothing. In the meantime, every time I see him and even when I don’t, I pledge to lift up a prayer on his behalf.
Copyright 2018 Tami Urcia