So, I’m sitting at a red light this morning, heading to the gym before work, listening to Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas CD—Glory in the Highest. As I’m singing along to the title track, I inch forward and notice a person standing at the end of the divider. He’s dressed rather shabbily with baggy pants an open overcoat, sporting a long beard. He’s holding a sign that reads: “Homeless and Unemployed, Please Help.”
I’ve seen people doing this many times at many different locations—mostly off highways at the bottom of the ramps at the traffic light—and the conventional (cynical) wisdom is is that these aren’t really homeless people but regular average people with an interesting (read “lazy”) approach to earning money. My first thought is, “Hmmm, another scammer taking advantage of the Holiday Season and everyone’s giving spirit.”
But then I really look at the person and the sign he is holding is shaking because he is shivering so hard—it’s 7:30 am and 40 F!! Then, I realize I’m singing “Glory in the Highest” and I’m wondering if I am giving glory to God right now. And the thought challenges me. Jesus’ words, “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me” are echoing in my head.
Does anything really matter except that this man is standing in the middle of traffic on the coldest morning of the season so far, asking for help? I don’t need to know his circumstances or motivations—he’s asking for help. He’s standing in the street hoping strangers--busy, distracted, strangers--take a moment to notice him, to look at him and see the person, a fellow human being. I wonder at the pride and embarrassment he has to swallow to stand there for everyone to see—begging.
Yes, he’s a stranger, but at that moment he has entered my universe and he has become my responsibility. As my car inches close enough to reach him, I hand him my lunch, my Dunkin Donuts coffee, and some money. I receive a smile, a thank you, and a God Bless You. As I drive to the gym I am praying that this man has a warm place to go to and I'm thanking God because He has already blessed me.