So, I spent last week going to an area of town called Little Five Points with the aspiration of talking about Jesus to a few people every day. Now, understand, I’m a strategist. I’m a guy that has a strategy and a plan for everything. When I’m invited to play a new board game with friends, I’ll sit out the first round and try to come up with a strategy before I dive in. That’s just who I am. So, as we were driving to Little Five last Monday & Tuesday, I thought about how I could ensure that I actually got to have a conversation about Jesus that wouldn’t get cut off by somebody having something to do. That’s when it came to me.
I’ll try to engage someone that doesn't have anything else to do!
Who doesn’t have anything else to do? The homeless people that are overlooked by everyone else.
Earlier in the month, as I’ve been reading books about man being made in the image of God, something stuck out to me. We all, as beings created in the image of God, have a capacity to relate to God—that’s one of the greatest qualities we posses. My prayer has been for God to give me the people that no one else wants, and it wasn’t until this week that it all came together. I spent Monday & Tuesday taking homeless people out to eat, and it was amazing. Here are a few things that I learned...
Homeless ≠ Stupid. Homelessness can very well be a lack of support system.
I took a guy named Digger out to lunch this week. He asked for money, and I asked if I could buy him lunch instead to which he replied, “Absolutely.” For about an hour, I sat down and talked to Dee and asked to hear his story. In a nutshell, he told me about his former life as an engineer who worked for GM. Many years ago, his wife and son were in a car wreck and died. He went into a depression, lost his job, his house, etc. With no friends, family or support system Dee was now homeless.
I was floored by how easy it was for someone to lose everything and how difficult it was to regain anything. Dee was an intelligent well spoken individual with tons of insight about life. Dee was a man (based on his story, which I chose to take at face value) that fell on hard times and did not have the things that we have that numb us to how easy it is for life to take a drastic turn like this.
Understanding this truth moved me from condescension to compassion. People have back stories, and I’ve learned to reserve my judgment about their character (or lack thereof) for a time when I’ve heard them out.
Some homeless individuals recognize they’ve been given a gift by God—the gift of desperation.
Towards the middle of our conversation, after hearing him use the words “the good Lord” time and time again, I asked him for his thoughts about God. What he said shocked me. Dee started to tell me about his belief in Jesus as the only “go between” between man and God. He shared how he trusted in Jesus years ago to save him from his sin and how he really attempts to be led by him daily and is grateful for his provision. He shared that he doesn’t know why his life turned out this way, but he’s confident that Jesus allowed it somehow for His good.
After talking about religion, faith, and asking as many other probing questions as I could, I asked Dee what his biggest frustration was with people that walk by him on a daily basis. I expected him to start to rant and rave about how people treat him as less than human, the looks that he gets, and the rejection he comes across. Dee didn’t say any of that. He said, “My biggest frustration is the way that I see people walk back on forth on a daily basis as if they don’t need God.”
Dee wasn’t frustrated with people, or mad at them because of anything they did to him. He pitied them because they didn’t have what he had. He was frustrated that people couldn’t see that God provides for them daily, and they walk around as if they don’t need him. He was given a great gift—the gift of desperation. He saw and recognized that every piece of food, every meal, every dime that was given to him was a gift from God.
Dee was a man that seemed like he understood the blessing of dependence on God. And his words have stuck with me since the day that we talked. It’s so funny how we think we have something to offer people that don’t have “anything”, but it’s really them that end up giving the most to us.
3. “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only." – C.S. Lewis
This past Tuesday this quote became reality. In an attempt to offer something to somebody that didn’t have “anything”, I understood that he had just as much as I do.
We ended the conversation by stumbling on the fact that we actually have the same birthday. (I verified it by googling his real name). I told him that we would celebrate together, if he was still around. I hope that when that time comes this summer, these lessons that I’ve learned will still be just as impactful.
If not, I thank God that he has so linked me with someone who shares my birthday, so that when I wake up to celebrate a few months from now, I’ll be forced to remember these lessons.