Freely You Received, Freely Give

The disheveled pair at turns talked or slumped on the couch to nap. Though this was a coffee shop/meeting place run by one of the big churches in town, they weren’t meeting anybody; they weren’t drinking coffee, either. Likely, they’d come inside on this cold morning to warm up. From across the balcony of that fine building, I could tell only that they appeared in their twenties. I meet there weekly with three other men and Joel  had already left. From Matthew 10, we’d talked about Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. “… Go to the lost sheep … freely you received, freely give … I send you out as sheep among wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.”

I couldn’t get the young man out of my mind. He leaned against the railing, ostensibly waiting for his companion to return from the restroom. Our eyes met as I headed to the stairs. What could God possibly want me to do? “Hey, how you doing?” I asked.

Built like a linebacker but with the sad eyes of a castaway, he sighed. “I’m kinda sick but I’ll be okay, I guess …” I waited. His story tumbled out like marbles poured from a can. Kicked out of his parents’ house when he turned 18, he’s been homeless the past 11 months. Survival superseded finishing high school but if he could get his GED, he’d join the Army. At least, it would be a living.

As I listened, it struck me that this robust young man seemed overwhelmed, even hopeless. One can only guess how much of Dillon’s story is true, but one thing is certain—his father never taught him how to be a man. Articulate as he was, he had no plan for the day, let alone how to establish an address so he could get a job. Regretful I had nothing more, I proffered my sack, which I told him had only the remains of a muffin. His thanks seemed genuine, even humble.

I gave him the only bill from my wallet—George, not Abe or even Alex. Lacking anything else, I dumped a load of what I hoped was encouragement on his head. I told him that he needed to show as much moxie as the illegals who come up to Oregon without so much as a green card. As I suggested places he might find shelter, I thought—Yeah, Sam, but your mom always encouraged, always provided, and would never have considered locking you out of your own house.

When I told him that God knew his name, the fix he was in, and everything about him, Dillon brightened considerably. “Yes, I know God. He’ll take care of me; it’s just hard now. And I have a Bible; it’s right here.” He started to dig through his coat pockets and I told him I believed him. Then Crystal, his companion, came from the restroom and I put my hands on their shoulders and prayed for them.

Dillon was no panhandler. His clear, sad eyes were not the eyes of a druggie. It’s likely they contributed greatly to their situation. I don’t know how God will provide for them. For that moment in time, I wondered–if my own sons or daughter were in a similar circumstance, would someone give them a reason to hope? I do know that I could scarcely see, such was my emotion as I stumbled away from them with the words, “God loves you.”

I seldom get so wrought up when I encounter the homeless. I see scruffy people with cardboard signs along many of the streets in our fair city. Some are scammers and I almost never give money. If I talk with them, I may give them food. I don’t wonder so much if they are deserving of anything from me but rather–Jesus, what do you want me to do?

It seems every time I approach one of the street people, it becomes an encounter between me and God. It’s not always comfortable but I always feel better. He doesn’t tell me how wonderful I am; more, He wants to show me how great He is. After all, what did I give Dillon–a buck and a half-eaten muffin? Yeah, some words, too.What hurt the most was that God simply asked me to give of myself.

In every case, I’m humbled: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” So I wonder why Jesus continues to extend his grace to me. I know—it’s his nature.



About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Risking change/changing the risk and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Freely You Received, Freely Give

  1. Jerry says:

    Well said, Sam. There are those who must help themselves, others who cannot. My father once said, “If someone falls into the well, drop the bucket for him to grab and lift him up. Don’t go in after him.” Whether that pithy saying applies is questionable, but we can, at least, offer assistance to those who might grab the bucket. The needy then may choose to be on his own. Our local “Loaves and Fishes” soup kitchen has its share of people who are “regulars” and who may not climb out of the well with the bucket offered. I have commented to my wife that those with the cardboard “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” sign on the street corner may have accepted that activity as their job and receive some compensation for it through dollars offered by those who stop. Some professional service providers have suggest that giving to those individuals may not be the most efficient service approach, but to give to the local charitable organizations, instead.

  2. Jerry says:

    Sam, it seems that you did your best in a difficult situation. Our daughter has carried some packaged food with her to give to someone in need on the street. One might also be aware where the local food pantry or soup kitchen is located to direct the hungry for a meal. I think that you encountered the tip of the ice berg and may feel guilty that you can’t move the ice berg. There are sources available to help move that ice berg, including faith-based, community-based, and government-based organizations. Support by the affluent of all of those institutions, including the government, to assist the poor and medically needy is necessary, in my opinion. Many working poor are without insurance or have inadequate insurance. Medical care is now being rationed by the ability to pay for insurance. We can leave them to die in the street or support the institutions, including the government, to assist those in need. Ice bergs aren’t easily moved, but they can be moved if we all are involved.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, your compassion always shines through. Um, leaving “them to die in the street” may be extreme but there is certainly considerable human suffering out there. In my town (Salem, OR), there are 150 organizations listed in the phone directory, many of which will provide shelter and/or food. Almost all have limiting standards as to who they will serve, to what extent, and for how long; e.g., our large Union Gospel Mission serves only men.
      Certainly, for these 150 help sources to exist, there is considerable public and church support, as well as some government involvement. I cannot pretend to grasp the extent of the need; obviously, it’s affected by the prolonged unemployment crisis. Nevertheless, handouts to panhandlers (the con artists) seems steady enough that I see enough well-dressed individuals with cardboard signs that, for them, it’s simply a racket. That hurts the assistance possibilities of the genuinely needy.
      Space limits prevented my discussion of questions re Dillon’s predicament; e.g., his parents told each of his older siblings that they were on there own immediately at age 18 so why didn’t Dillon make advance preparation for this parental abandonment? While I empathize with his dilemma, there seemed to be an abject helplessness about him that beggars the imagination.

  3. Stan Baldwin says:

    Excellent piece, Sam, both content and writing. I think it would make a good follow up for my SPCH newsletter sent yesterday. Shows an example of dealing with some of same issues I have been addressing, but dealing with them on a very personal level. Thanks

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Stan. And likewise for your SPCH newsletter–quite a spirited and informative interchange between you and Les, and then the lady. She displayed such a gracious spirit. And yes, I’d be honored to have my posting in your newsletter; let me know what you need.
      Also, my readers would doubtless find that issue of the SPCH newsletter enlightening. You have my permission to post the site address in this forum (I will push it on FB, too.). We’ve all got lots of work to do–beginning with understanding our part in the problem and opening up our hearts.

  4. m kofron says:

    God bless you Sam. Your actions are an ecouragment and a rebuke to me.
    Sin is the major destroying factor in our world and all of us need the grace of Jesus to bring restoration and hope. I am trying to develop a concise explanation of how one comes to God thru Jesus and his death. Spiritual CPR if you will

    • samuelehall says:

      Matt, we’re walking this road together. I didn’t start out at this point, nor have I arrived. But as I see more and more of Christ’s compassion, I feel freer to extend myself a little deeper into the great pond of accumulated pain and alienation. People everywhere are desperate for hope. In our response to be salt and light, what we show the world is not ourselves but Christ.

  5. Lloyd says:

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40, The line that struck me was “It seems every time I approach one of the street people, it becomes an encounter between me and God.” I was in Portland twice over the weekend and was panhandled several times by young men, and saw a young mom with several kids who apparently lived on the street. I didn’t do anything but walk by. Your story is being used by the Lord to wake me up. What would Jesus HAVE ME do?


    • samuelehall says:

      Lloyd, you have nailed the dilemma we find ourselves in, time and again: My engagement = my vulnerability. Is there risk? Sometimes. So … do I live life w/o risk? Of course not. E.g., on a level of a different danger, when you asked that lovely lady to marry you, you were vulnerable. Perhaps even more so {;>). But what any of this comes down to: Who is our Rock, our Mighty Fortress, our Savior and Refuge? If it’s all on you, Babe, well, you know those limitations.
      But if your Protector and Guide is the Lord Almighty, well now …
      Yes, it’s more complicated than that but start with this: Lord, are you asking me to approach the battlements of this person’s confidentiality and privacy? Is my heart right? Gulp.
      But this is the kind of life Jesus calls us to live–dependent on him, one step at a time. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
      Next time, Pardner, I want to hear your story. Blessings.

  6. Kevin Davidson says:

    Sounds like it was a great encounter. Even though not many words were said, the main comment about God knows who you are can be an everlasting impression on someone. You may never know the outcome of this person, but you took the time to let him know God loves him, which is something God wants us all to do.

    • samuelehall says:

      Yeah, Kevin, It was a great encounter–afterwards. At the time, I felt like I was skating on thin ice. Crystal is a whole different story, yet her situation impacts Dillon in more ways than I could possibly know.
      I’m glad you picked up on the “God knows who you are” comment. That was also directed back at me, in the uncertainty of the encounter.

  7. Sam,
    Nicely done. Good for you for pausing and engaging in some conversation. It is difficult to know how much more to extend ourself. I know one thing for sure — it is worth the effort, the apprehension and sometimes even the fear necessary to love a stranger even for a few minutes. Good for you for praying with them.

    • samuelehall says:

      DJ, I wish I would have had one of your books on Fatherhood to hand to young Dillon. As I said in my post, I’m more convinced that he needs to know how to be a man–a growing need among youth in our culture. Great to connect with you.

  8. Doug Bolton says:


    You did all that God wanted you to do. We tend to overwhelm people sometimes with our words. You said as much as needed for the situation, and planted a seed.

    This is a wonderful post. You speak from the heart, and people can relate to that better than trying to impress them.


  9. Good words to read, Sam. Since God’s moments are purposeful encounters, I pray Dillon and Crystal are now going to have renewed hope and chase after God’s plan for their lives.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Maxine. I hope they will see God’s purposes in their time of hardship. Not something I can push them toward but I’m hoping for more encounters with them. Reflecting later on their dynamic (which I don’t perceive to be romantic at all), I see a lot of family and personal issues that need fixing. Certainly a task for our loving Lord.

  10. samuelehall says:

    Thanks, Connie. Of course, it really wasn’t much in the way of material goods but it took some effort to move me off the dime.

  11. samuelehall says:

    Connie, I think most of us want to do … something for the cause of good, but we’re not sure how to go about it.

  12. Julia Pascoe Sumrall says:

    We learn so much when we obey God’s nudges. He replaces what we give with His love.
    God bless you Sam as you give of yourself in obedience to the Lord.
    Julia Fay

    • samuelehall says:

      You’ve got that right, Julia Fay. Then I think of people who work with the homeless, the runaways and abused women, the mentally ill–day after day, and many do it without any pay at all. As I said in my post, engagement with the dispossessed really brings an engagement with God. We have to come out of our comfort zone–something I’m loath to do. Then I chastise myself as I think how needy these folks are. The least I can do is acknowledge them … God is placing his mirror before me and I begin to see how small I act when I cannot acknowledge the presence of these throwaway people.
      On another note, I thank you for being one of my Top-10 commenters in 2011! I appreciate your taking the time.

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