Image taken from Google Images
I told this story on my personal Facebook page the other day because we were talking about doing something little for others even if you can't do something big. See, people seem to think they need to go all out to make a difference, but it's sometimes the smallest gestures that can change a life.
The year was 2005, and our family lived in a tiny townhouse in Mesa, AZ. My husband would often run up to the Safeway up the road to grab an item we needed. Often times, as he was coming out of the store, he would run into a homeless man sitting on the bench. Daniel smoked cigarettes at the time, and he would take a few minutes to spend with the man while the two smoked.
One day Daniel came home and told me to pack a bag. He had found out that Brian, the homeless man at Safeway, loved to read. He would read anything he could get his hands on. One thing we DIDN'T have a lack of, around our house, was paperback books. I read like crazy, too, and I would often have a stack of books ready to go to the used bookstore to trade. One such pile went directly into the bag for Brian. We topped it off with a Bible, some snacks, and several bottles of water.
Daniel decided that the whole family should go back up to Safeway to deliver the bag we had packed. When we got there, our youngest daughter Amber asked if she could hug Brian. Her little 3-year-old mind didn't notice that he was dirty and stinky. She only saw a man who was smiling at her and happy to see our family. He must be a good guy if we were laughing and joking with him. Daniel said of course she could hug him.
As her arms went around Brian, tears streamed down his face. Andrea, then four years old, also gave Brian a hug, though she was confused why he was crying. After both girls had their turns, Brian thanked us over and over. Those were the first hugs he had had in years. Most people, he explained, took great care not to touch him as they gave him a handout. I wonder if we think being homeless is contagious?
Brian thanked us for the books and the bag, and we saw him several times in the weeks ahead. He was always reading one of the books I had passed along, and it sure felt good to know that I helped him smile. I may not have been able to give Brian and job or a house, but our family WAS able to give him all we could. The greatest gift was simply treating him like a human.
One Sunday morning, it happened to be Easter, Daniel pulled into the Safeway parking lot. When asked why we were there instead of church, Daniel told us we were there to pick up Brian. The church always preached to "come as you were," and we were going to hope they took that as literally as we were about to. Unfortunately, Brian wasn't there. As we drove to church I realized that I was deeply disappointed.
We never did see Brian again. I have to wonder if he wasn't put there specifically to teach us a lesson. Maybe we didn't really help him by giving him those books. Maybe we were helping ourselves. We were learning how to give from the very bottom of our hearts. Our giving stopped being superficial that day and become honest and true. We give what we can, when we can. That is a lesson that will never leave me.
Please enjoy this song by Colin Raye that is perfect for this situation. "What if Jesus Comes Back Like That?"