I continually struggle and wrestle with what to do when I pass homeless men or women on the street, do I continue to drive by, smile, and pretend like that’s enough for the day? Do I stop and say hello? Do I give food instead of money? Somehow each situation is different, each situation is unique and I think that is where I trust that it must be the Holy Spirit compelling me to do something for others.
Recently, a few weeks ago, I was driving down to the Tower District in my beat-up, old, but still trusty mini van and stopped to make a left where a man in a wheelchair sat perched, no sign, but just a smile on his face for me as I passed by and on the other corner, another man sat in his wheel-chair, looking a bit more surely, but also wanting help though he didn’t look like he wanted to admit it. I had driven up to the stoplight feeling somewhat compelled already and as I made my left turn, I knew that I had to go back, even if it was to only give a couple of dollars to each gentleman and share some conversation. I parked in the Liberty Tax parking lot, and walked back over to the first gentleman and said hello. I told him that I had felt compelled to stop and give him a couple of dollars and asked him how he was doing. His name was Dan but his friends call him “Papa” and the name suited his gentle smile that reached all the way to his eyes. I said how I knew it wasn’t much but I wanted to give him something in hopes that it would help in some small way. He thanked me, and told me how the church across the street wanted him to keep growing out his beard so he could be Santa at Christmas (seems like an ironical thing for a church to ask, but that is just my point of view). Then I told him I wanted to walk over to his friend and give him a couple of dollars too but that I would be back to say good-bye.
So, I began my trek across the street again and introduced myself to David, pressed a few dollars into his hand and he was so excited because he was going to go to the local taqueria and get a taco with the money. And then he just started talking. And I listened. I listened as he told me about an unfair court case he is in, involving a knife stabbing and a man named Boozer, and how he is innocent but if it goes through this last time and he is declared guilty he will do his time. The case has dragged on for two years now and he told me the whole story of how it got started, and then how he went to the church across the street which seemed to help him out sometimes. I listened and nodded and asked questions. Sometimes I wonder if all people just want to be listened to and so often we forget that and drive by in our beat up vans or snazzy mustangs, trying to forget the faces that we see. Sometimes I wonder if I give out of guilt. But then there are times, like this recent occurrence where I know that it was the Holy Spirit guiding my steps. As I made my way back to the car, after wishing David and Papa the best, a thought began ruminating—how many people in Fresno are there that are forgotten and how do we reach them?
A question that I ask you my readers, do we forget or do we stop and listen?