I have a short story to tell you about a homeless man that I met today.
Today was just like any other day. Hectic as usual, constantly running from one issue to the next and one meeting to the next. All day today there was no down time... constant running. You'd think that with my mind racing in so many different directions and trying to stay focused on what needed to be done that I'd run right past whatever God would want me to do today, but that's not what happened.
After visiting with my son, my wife had shared with me that she wasn't hungry and she suggested that I stop and pick up something to eat on my way back home (we had drove separately), so I decided on Chinese food. On my way to the restaurant, I noticed a man on the side of the road. I've seen him a few times before and have always wondered about him. Is he homeless? Is he doing ok? Is he hungry? Who is he? But in the past as I'd drive by I'd just forget about him after I went past him. It's sad to say but it was like "out of site" "out of mind." But his time was different! Maybe it was the fact that the weather was so bitter cold and the sun was setting and he had his hands in his pants pockets trying to keep warm? Maybe it was the way he was trying to shield himself from the wind against the retaining wall on the side of the road? I don't know what it was, but this time I felt lead to do something. It wasn't clear as to what at this time, but I knew I had to stop and see him. So I go through the intersection and turn and park in a nearby parking lot and wonder what is it I'm to do now. I prayed for God to make it clear to me so I'd know what am I supposed to do. Thoughts raced through my head while I'm praying. I'm thinking... "Lord please don't ask me to invite him home if I find out he's homeless. Is this what you want me to do?" No, I didn't feel that this was what I was supposed to do. Suddenly I look down in the seat of my truck at my nice warm Dickie's barn coat with the wonderful wool lining inside, yes, my most favorite coat! I shake my head because I know what has to be done. The coat was a gift from my father in law a couple of years past. I'd always wanted a coat like that and when he heard this he bought it for me for my birthday. So it was a special gift that I really loved and enjoyed. But you know what... I'm not out on the street freezing right now either. I have a family, I have a roof over my head, I get to eat more than I should every day. So it didn't take but a few seconds to know that this coat now belonged to this man on the street. I put the coat on and I walk through the parking lot and began to approach the man on the sidewalk.
He sees me coming, and he appears nervous. I can tell he doesn't like being approached by people and as I near him his eyes dart around looking at the street then again at me and back to his left then back at me until I finally say, "Hi, how are you?" No answer, he's quiet and looking away from me. I can see this is making him uncomfortable, I think he's wishing I would just leave him alone. I ask him his name and he quickly says, "Jerry."
I tell him, "I just saw you here as I drove by and , well, I've seen you here a few times before. Do you have a place to stay?" He glanced at me and shook his head no. Then he said no. I then ask him if he's warm enough. He immediately says, "Yes, I'm fine." I explain that I just wanted to make sure that he was warm enough and I wanted to know if he needed a coat to keep warm. (he was wearing a couple of layers of shirts and what looked like a jacket liner and that was all he had on, it didn't look too warm.) So I ask him if he needed a coat. He looked at me now and he said, "Well I really could use a coat, what I have on isn't very warm." I said, "Well I'd like to give you this coat if you want it." (I showed him the coat I was wearing) He seemed to light up a little and he said he would like the coat. I asked him if he wore an extra large and he said yes. I said, "Here, I want you to have this coat" and I took it off and he took it and put it right on and it fit him perfect. He was so appreciative and he thanked me over and over. I glanced in his shopping buggy and all he had in the buggy was a couple of black trash bags. Who knows what he had inside those bags, a few clothes maybe and some important items that he valued, but laying on top of one of the black plastic bags was a bible that was opened up that he was reading before I walked up upon him. This bible wasn't in plain sight, I would not have seen it if I was not standing right there over his buggy, but there it was laying opened up and I remember as I drove by him he was staring down into his buggy and this must have been what he was reading. All I could think about was how amazing this was, here's a homeless man reading his bible on the street and suddenly some guy he doesn't know comes up and offers him a nice warm coat.
Well I simply say God bless you as we shake hands and he thanks me again as I walk off. As I walk back to the truck, I'm very chilled on the outside (it's getting cold) but my heart is warm on the inside. I thank God for the opportunity he gave me to help this man.
Well I quickly head on down the road towards the Chinese restaurant to order my food and as I'm waiting at the counter I start thing about this man again. Well you guessed it! I'm now wondering, "when's the last time this man has eaten anything?" "Is he hungry?" You know there's no way I'm going to order my food now and let this man go hungry. "But maybe he's eaten already," I think, "yes but maybe not and maybe the food I get him is the only food he gets all day." "What should I do?" The server behind the counter asked me, "How can I help you." and I blurt out without even a thought, "Yes I'll take two of those to go please." It's funny how that got settled so quickly. I guess that God thought I'd stand there forever and try and figure out what I should do, so he just decided to cut to the chase. It made me chuckle, it was if I had no control over what I ordered, by golly, this man's getting a meal weather I'm willing or not! After I paid I started thinking, well this order is going to take about 10-15 minutes to prepare, I better drive down the road and see if he's still there, here I am ordering this food and for all I know he may be gone already. So I take off and sure enough the man is not where I left him... he's moved.
I look way down the street past the next intersection and there he is and he's walking down the sidewalk. So I drive and park down the road and watch him as he keeps on walking down the sidewalk. I figure I'll keep an eye on him for about 10 minutes or so then hurry back to the restaurant, pick up the order, and quickly head back to where I saw him last. He shouldn't be able to get far and I should be able to find him and then give him his meal.
"It's time," 10 minutes are up and I see he's headed down the street and unless he gets off this street I can determine where he would be by the time I get back. So I hurry away.
I run into the restaurant and you won't believe what happens next. A lady behind the counter see's me and suddenly there's this shocked look on her face. She quickly apologizes and says, "I'm so sorry, we forgot your order! I'll start on it right a way, again I'm so sorry." I just sat down and thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding, there's no telling where this man will be by the time I get my order now." So I sat there and watched each minute tick by, one by one the minutes ticked by. Finally, I surrendered. I realized that this whole thing was now out of my hands. I simply sighed and said a prayer and I told God that if he wanted this man to eat this food then I was going to trust that he will lead me to him so I can give it to him. If I can't find him, then maybe my wife will eat it. I finally relax and just waited. The order took 20 minutes to make, unusually long because they were so busy at the time. Well I finally get the order and I head down the road.
I see no one walking on the sidewalk and now it's almost dark and difficult to see very far down the road. I again pray, "Lord if you want this man to eat this food, please Lord, lead me to him." I drive and drive and keep driving and just as I figure he must have taken another street, I see a glimpse of this man wearing a light tan colored coat down an adjacent street. All I saw was the jacket in the distance because he was wearing all black clothes, and if he hadn't been wearing the light tan colored coat that I gave him, I would have never seen him way down that street in the dark.
I quickly turned down this road and stopped next to him and I got out and walked to him. Again he didn't like the idea of someone approaching him so to put him at ease I explained as I'm walking towards him that I had bought him some food and I just wanted to give him something to eat. He relaxed and I think it was then he recognized me from before. He said thank you so much. As I gave him the sack of Chinese food I told him I hoped he liked Chinese food and he said he did, I gave him a Pepsi to drink with his meal and he quickly tucked it all into one of his plastic trash sacks. He thanked me again and as I left I simply said God loves you, and he said God loves you too. We both went our separate ways and I don't know the next time I'll see him again. (I think I'll get some gloves and have them with me in the truck for our next encounter if this is God's will)
This I do know. It's amazing how God will provide isn't it? This man needed a warm coat and some food, God had planned to provide for this mans needs and he used me to execute his plan. Even as unsuspecting as I was, and as difficult as I made this whole thing... God provided. God's plan was accomplished.
This is just another reminder that God is in control, even when it appears that nothing is going right. This poor man doesn't know where his next meal is coming from, but I praise God that He does! This man doesn't know how he's going to survive this cold weather, but the Lord does! I thank God that He's in control and that He provides for our every need because he loves us so much.
I got to admit, the coat looked better on him than me anyways. God always knows best!
Your brother in Chirst!
photo provided by http://www.christianphotos.net/