His name was David. I didn’t know it at the time, and truth be told I didn’t want to know it. I just wanted to grab a couple of energy drinks at the gas station and see if there were any new movies at Redbox that Nicole and I could watch over the weekend.
“Avoid eye contact” is kind of the rule of thumb with homeless people. If you don’t, he is likely to engage you, and that can get pretty uncomfortable.
There was a man sitting with his back against the window right next to the Redbox kiosk, and I intended to avoid him if possible. But sometimes, His plans are a little different than mine.
If you are married or have a significant other, then you are definitely familiar with the
“elbow nudge”. For example, you’re talking to someone you know, but your spouse doesn’t, and there it is – nudge, nudge. Dangit! I forgot to introduce her!
You are talking to her parents and crack an inappropriate joke (I have of course never done this). Nudge-nudge!! This one borders on painful. You know exactly what’s going through her mind. “What the heck are you thinking?!”
You always know what the nudge means, based on the context in which you receive the nudge.
That’s how it often is when the Lord wants me to do something. I might be at a restaurant with Nicole and I look over at a family that has young kids. They are obviously not doing well financially and are sharing a couple of meals between all five of them. Nudge-nudge. “Cover their meal. And while you’re at it, throw in a Cookie Monster desert for each of the kids. Oh, and by the way, make sure the waiter doesn’t let them know who did it.”
I am at a toll booth. Nudge-nudge. “Pay for the next car. You don’t know who it is, but I do. It will be more encouraging to them than you can imagine.”
I am talking with someone I barely know and he is telling me about some challenging issues he is currently facing. Nudge-nudge. “You need to pray for this man…out loud.”
I don’t know. Sometimes praying for someone else, out loud, is pretty awkward. I’ll just pray for him when I get home.
Well, there I was walking up to check out the Redbox movies and wouldn’t you know…nudge-nudge.
I tried to convince myself that it was the wind, or something else so I could ignore it.
Alright, I give!
I stopped resisting and simply said, “Hello. How are you?”
He paused and said he was doing okay. He didn’t ask for money, which I was anticipating. He just said he was trying to get moving on.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked.
He said he ultimately wanted to head towards Tulsa, but mentioned a McDonald’s next to a major truck stop on I-44. He figured that if he could get there, he could hitch a ride the rest of the way with a trucker.
Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to be “nudged” (or whatever you want to call it), but I know some people do. Either way, I knew what I was supposed to do. I am yet to regret obeying the nudge, but I have ignored it. Every time I ignore it, I wish I hadn’t.
“I’ll give you a ride.” I said, knowing it was a few miles out of my way.
He was very appreciative and climbed into the passenger seat of my Yukon. I don’t think I found a good movie and I can’t remember any cans of Monster rolling around in the back seat. However, I do remember him, and that’s a good sign of what was most important that evening.
We pulled out of the gas station, then took a right onto the on-ramp to I-44.
I love getting to know people and everybody likes to talk about themselves, so I simply asked him some questions. He talked about his transient life, the many places he’d been, and mentioned that he was a very good roofer…at least five times.
We neared the exit, went up the ramp and suddenly he said, “Slow down.” There was a girl on the side of the road holding a sign. David reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge wad of bills.
“Roll your window down, please.”
I did as I was asked and he handed her a few dollars.
“You don’t fly a sign unless things are really bad,” he said.
“Really bad?” I thought to myself. “You’re hanging out at a gas station, hoping to eventually hitch a ride to another state for no good reason. Everything in this world that you own you are currently wearing or it is in your pockets, and that’s not really bad?!”
I had been introduced to a homeless hierarchy of misfortune of which I was totally unaware, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. David had been in the same situation as that young lady, so he could empathize with her while I was still attempting to intellectually understand her situation.
David and I were miles apart in our ability to relate to someone “flying a sign” and that fact revealed a principle to me that I have since taught to many others. Sometimes the very thing we view as our greatest weakness provides us with our greatest (and often most unique) strength.
Were you at some point homeless and destitute? You are in a better position than anyone else to help someone who is currently in that situation.
Have you overcome breast cancer? Thousands would benefit from everything you learned during those trying times.
Are you single and broke? Your faith is going to be tested, but you are also not tied down to any particular location. You possess a freedom and agility that someone who is married with two children and a mortgage does not have.
We see David in the Old Testament as defenseless and weak, standing there looking pathetic with no armor to protect him. His perceived weakness allowed him to wield his sling and with pinpoint accuracy kill a giant 4 times his size without getting a single scratch.
I dropped David off at McDonald’s, he said thank you and shook my hand. No request for anything material at all; just appreciation.
There is no doubt who fared better in my few minutes with David. He got a ride, but I got a lesson I will never forget. That is how things tend to work in God’s economy. We do something in obedience to Him and He does more with it than we could have imagined.
It kind of reminds me of a guy who was willing to give up his lunch one hot afternoon….