While visiting my brother’s family last weekend we went sightseeing in Indy. Half of our group wanted to climb a hot, tiny and too-high-up tower in the city center, but my three children and I opted for Starbucks. En route however, a homeless man stopped us.
On a recent trip to Dallas, we were also inundated by homeless people. The many times we’ve gone to New York, Chicago or when we went to Florida last year it’s the same thing: We walk by people asking for money, pushing a cart or sleeping on a bench and we look down and walk by. I always feel badly, want to give them money or do something but…I don’t.
What if they use the money for alcohol or drugs? We’ve read about professional beggars who’ve made lucrative careers by pretending they’re homeless. Chris just showed me an article about a business owner in the inner city who wanted to employ the homeless but he’s unable to retain workers. Due to PTSD from abuse and neglect, many do not have the emotional ability or capacity to get a job or keep one. Partly for these reasons, partly because there are so many homeless people, partly because I don’t know what to do I always do the same thing: walk by, feel badly (momentarily) and do nothing. Then Indy happened.
The man started talking to Casey and although we’ve (sadly) modeled how to ignore the homeless, Casey stopped and for the first time in a long time I was forced to look in the eyes of a homeless man. He told us not to be afraid and that he just wanted money for french fries. Casey asked me if I had any change so I gave the man a dollar. When we walked away Faithe said, “God bless you” to the grateful man and we went into Starbucks… to order twenty-five-dollars’ worth of coffee.
The event has haunted me ever since. My many valid reasons for avoiding the homeless suddenly didn’t matter. The article about how difficult it can be to employ the homeless seemed inconsequential. Whenever I think of the look in the man’s eyes I’m convicted that I’m a Christian who ignores the Bible:
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” I John 3:17-18.
So now what? Besides tearfully repenting to the Lord and my children, I have a few ideas. Ideas I am going to be writing about in future blogs in honor of the man I closed my heart to. The reality is, my Polo could’ve been that man in Indy. When we put a face to pain, pain becomes unacceptable but I’ve never let the homeless, people with PTSD or the poor close enough to see their faces. It was always safer that way and frankly, easier.
But disobedience usually is.