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 Survival superseded finishing high school but if he could get his GED, he’d join the Army.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.