It was just a moment, maybe a minute. But an hour later I still feel ill from it.
Eugene has a lot of people, on a lot of corners, all holding signs. Our neighborhood has quite a few regulars, they have their spot, and when you don't see them there, it just seems odd. Most of them are older, most of them look like they've had a rough life.
All of them have signs. Most are written on brown cardboard, all with something different portraying the same message; Help. Help me find work, help me find food, help me have more money, help yourself to heaven by giving me your change, help me have a beer... (Best sign ever was a sign that said, "Why lie? I just wanna beer!")
We have a man who faithfully decorates his 2' by 2' sign with Jesus-y bumper stickers. Around here, that may be an extra count against him.
I don't usually give money to these people, mostly because I rarely carry cash. But every time I see these faces I long to know their story. Countless times I've wanted to go park the car somewhere, walk to where they are on the corner and ask how they got where they were. Do they plan on their situation changing? Do they still have hope? What's their name?
But, I'll use excuses not to go, that it may be inappropriate. Sometimes I think of enlisting Todd in the expedition, but I'm not sure how he'd feel about that. Maybe I should ask.
Today was different. I had to run an errand with Traben while Creed was at school. We pulled up to a corner, third car back from the crosswalk, and there was a guy on the corner. He was different than a lot of the others. His complexion didn't scream of drug or alcohol abuse. He wasn't haggard looking like a vet. He was probably my age, & looked a little like someone I know. And his face didn't scream of a jaded view on life, but of brokenness, of shame.
He was holding a sign, not quite like all the others. A white sign. And it didn't have a whole list of things on it, there was no reference to being a vet, losing a job, having a failed business... It just said one word;
And a million thoughts started running through my head- give him money, don't give him money... go buy him food, what would he want?...offer to give him a ride and go buy him food, probably not a safe idea...
And I can't figure out why I, in a moment of decision, couldn't decide. But I didn't do anything. Just half-smiled, and drove by when the light changed. But my smile disappeared as I realized who I was in that moment, and who I should be. And my heart broke.
How many times do we pass by people who just need a glimpse of hope, of the love of Jesus in action? How many times do we deny the fact that it could be us on the corner? How long until we realize, no matter how many awful decisions those people have made, they are still people? How many times will I continue to pass by?
I can't know what opportunity I missed. And I still don't know what's appropriate for me to do in all of these situations. I hear of people keeping snacks or power bars in their car, just for these moments...
I don't know. All I could think of was the verses in Matthew 25-
"42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "
Today I didn't feed Jesus.