Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Opportunity Knocked

And I wasn't home. As a matter of fact, I wasn't even close to home.

Tell me if this has ever happened to you....

I work in the midtown area of a large city for a well known nonprofit agency. Although our business is helping people, we are urged to use caution when we are alone and approach those who may need help. This is the only wise thing to do, but it tends to blind us at times to those who are in need.

Our building is just down the street from a blood plasma donation center. Low income people frequent this center and sell their blood in order to provide themselves with anything from their next meal to their next drink. The line forms outside early in the morning before the center opens, and dissipates shortly afterward. There are only so many donations taken in a day, so the early comers are taken while the late comers are turned away.

There are also certain spots along my drive to and from work that have become prime locations for those seeking handouts. These men are usually unkempt, in need of shaves and haircuts, and more than likely, showers. Invariably they hold a rough, handwritten cardboard sign. The wording usually takes some form of the following:

PLEASE HELP
HOMELESS VET
THANK YOU
GOD BLESS

The men may change, but the sign never does. My hardened heart had once thought it might be kind just to buy t-shirts to give out with this message imprinted on the front in big block letters, thereby saving them the trouble of having to find a piece of cardboard and magic marker.

Instead, I just stopped "seeing" them.

Until today.

Today, for some strange reason, I had to take a different route back to work from lunch, one I would never normally take. Standing on a corner was a woman. Not a disheveled woman, but a woman who looked worn out and very overheated. No wonder - the temperatures were in the nineties today at that time. She seemed to be clean and decently dressed in a skirt and top, and she had a backpack laying on the ground beside her.

But she was holding a cardboard sign.

I don't know why, but I wouldn't allow myself to look at her. I pulled up to the stop sign right next to her and acted as if she weren't even there. I refused to even read the sign to see how she might possibly need help, how I might be able to help her, and went on past.

And was immediately convicted.

"This is a CHRISTIAN?" the Holy Spirit said.

"I died for THIS?" Christ sadly shook His head.

"Kid, you blew it," the Father sighed.


"I know. I blew it. I'm sorry. Please forgive me....Look, here's a Sonic Drive-In. I'll make amends and get her a Coke! That'll make up for it, and then I'll see how I can help, OK?"

Silence from the Great Three.

I drove in, got the Coke, drove out, and drove immediately back to the spot where the lady was. Of course, she was no longer there. Someone else had taken the blessing I was offered and helped the woman in need.

Not all was lost in this endeavor, however. I ended up taking the Coke to a panhandler that sits outside the bank, rain or shine, every day of the week. I'd never spoken to him before. He was one of those people I'd come to ignore on a daily basis. One I treated as a non-person before.

That won't be happening again.

Thank you, God, for opening my eyes to see that we are ALL Your children, regardless of the choices we make or the hardships we face. Soften my heart again for those I need to serve. Provide me the opportunity again to serve someone in Your name, and help me to take advantage of the blessing it is.


Hebrews 13:2
Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. American Standard Version 1901 Info

3 comments:

HeyJules said...

Sounds like you are right in line with what Pastor said would be our church's new mission when we all metlast night for his Town Hall Meeting.

Don't you love it when God convicts you OUTSIDE of the church building for what is about to happen INSIDE the church building?

Todd M said...

You've got a good heart. Thank you for sharing. We undoubtedly all have missed countless opportunities God has placed before us. Thanks for the reminder to remain forever seeking of and responsive to His soft, still voice.

His Singer said...

Tonight I got a chance to put into action what that voice politely mentioned it thought I should do. I happened upon one of the "cardboard men" at one of the usual stops, and dug in my purse for something to give him. All I had was the $5 I was going to use for my dinner, yet the voice was firm, and so I gave it to him. It struck me again how very blessed I am. I struggle to pay bills, but he struggles to survive with whatever brought him to this point. I have a home, while he will most likely be in a shelter somewhere tonight. I had a new appreciation for my plain old ham and cheese sandwich tonight, eaten within these four walls!