A man sits outside the coffee shop. He often does. Last time I saw him, I bought him a muffin and a water, but now I am on my way out. I politely say hello and ask him if he needs anything. He shakes his head and tells me he’s fine. He wears the same clothes he did last time. Heading toward my car, I absentmindedly speculate on how cold it is. Will he be okay? I don’t even know his name. My key turns in the ignition, breathing life into my car. My finger automatically powers off the radio, silencing its noise. I’m alone in my thoughts, barely aware of the cars and streets around me. Then, I make a decision. I turn into the nearest Walgreens and run inside. I grab a travel size deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, bar of soap, chapstick, fleece blanket, a bottle of water and a pack of granola bars. Ten dollars worth of human essentials. Once I purchase the items, I head back downtown, shoving thoughts of homework assignments from my mind. This is more important than my college career. This is more important than a lost hour of sleep.
When I arrive downtown, he is no longer sitting by the coffee shop. I panic and begin driving around the downtown area, looking for him. Finally, I spot him sitting with two other people. I park, grab the Walgreen’s sack, lock my doors and head over to the man. I awkwardly say hello and hand the sack to the man. I apologize to the other two. If I had known there were more, I would have come prepared, I explain.
“You handing out food with a group?” The woman asks.
“No ma’am,” I explain. “I see him sitting outside the coffee shop a lot and just wanted to buy a few things. I wish it could be more.”
“It’s okay,” she replies. “We eat at the church. Good pea soup tonight.”
I ask her name. Cheryl, she replies. Cheryl, I repeat. Then I turn to the man, he tells me his name is Donald. “Same as my dad,” I remark. The other man is named Randy. Cheryl, Donald, Randy — all homeless. Cheryl asks for my name. Christina, I say. Christina, she repeats. She grabs my hands. “Ooh, your hands are warm,” she smiles. “God bless you.” I return to my car and dig through my trunk, looking for a pair of gloves. No luck. I find another blanket. I walk back over to the group and hand her the blanket. She explains she’s currently house-sitting, so she’s fine and gives the blanket to Randy and me a big hug. I tell them I’ll pray for them. I repeat, I wish it could be more. I wish it could be more.
We are surrounded by homeless. I think sometimes we forget homeless people are human beings like ourselves. We see men and woman by stoplights holding cardboard signs, and mentally debate whether or not they are really in need or frauds. Regardless of the situation, everyone is in need. We cannot simply shout Jesus at those who are homeless or hurting, without backing up our faith with actions. Faith without works is dead. If we tell the homeless to stay warm but do not offer a blanket, we are preaching faith without works. If we tell them to eat something or stay hydrated and do not give food or water, we are hypocrites! If we leave a track without a tip, what message are we sending? I had a woman hand me a track the other day. “I have something for you,” she said, reaching into her bag. Expecting a dollar, the paper track felt disappointing in my palm. What kind of message are we sending? Faith without works is dead. A sentiment to help the homeless is only a sentiment.
Donald didn’t beg. I found this lack of “begging” one of the most striking features of Donald. “I’m fine, thank you,” he replied to my initial inquisition. As the weather grows colder, I think of the homeless. I cannot even begin to imagine being homeless. What would it be like to have nothing? Absolutely nothing. I cannot imagine. I do not wish to imagine. However, it is a part of reality. Homelessness exists. We cannot ignore it.
I will be praying Cheryl, Rand and Donald but more than just prayers. I plan on using what God blesses me with to bless others. Especially with the arrival of cold weather, we need to do everything in our power to help those in need.
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:35-40