There are always beggars on the corner by Wal-Mart. Let’s face it, they are on every corner. At every stoplight. Holding signs with statements of their plight in life. Veterans, homeless, struggling families and even the guy in my city whose sign says “Not gonna lie, need beer.”
And I admit it. I look away. Like they don’t exist. They make me uncomfortable. I sit in my shiny car and think “Get a job like the rest of us!” or “See what you get for being a druggie!” I used to feel sad for the signs that said “Veteran but no one cares...” until I was admonished by my military friends that most of those people were lying and had never served. Now I find myself looking at them in disdain.
This morning I stopped at WalMart to purchase a few things for my sons upcoming soccer tournament this week. As I pulled out of my parking space and looked towards the exit, I saw a beggar. I sighed and I hoped for little traffic so I could pull out quickly.
I pulled up to the intersection and glanced his way. We made eye contact. Dang it! What do you do in that moment? Smile? Look away? Both seem inappropriate. I found myself just sitting there looking into his eyes. They were blue under his ball cap. He was older and had a silver beard and tan skin.
The car behind me honked for me to pull out. I immediately broke our gaze and pulled out. But I found myself looking for the entrance back in. I pulled in and watched him for a few minutes from a distance. Two different people gave to him. I was shocked. I smirked that they had been so easily scammed. One man gave him a bag of McDonald’s food. The man always said “thank you.”
But when he got the McDonald’s bag he sat down under the tree and looked into the bag. He took out a sandwich of some sort and opened the wrapper. He bowed his head for a moment and then his eyes looked up and he motioned. A sweet dog approached out from under his pack leaned up against the tree.
He gave the dog the sandwich.
My hand went over my mouth and I began to cry. He fed his dog first? Wasn’t he hungry? Then he pulled out what looked like a yogurt parfait or cup of ice cream. He motioned his dog to lay down and then he stood up and walked over to another man I had not noticed laying asleep under another tree. He didn’t wake him, he just set the parfait down next to him and returned to his spot under his own tree with his dog.
He pulled out one last item. It looked like a hash brown or pie. He ate it slowly. Then rubbed his dog’s head and gave him the last bite of whatever it was. He drank from a bottle of water and gave some to his dog using his hand.
Then he did the darndest thing… He pulled out a small package of wipes and cleaned his face and his dog’s. He patted his dog again and stood up with his sign and moved back to the corner where he had been standing.
What just happened? He fed his dog and someone else first? I felt confused. And ashamed. This man. This man has nothing. But he gave freely of what he did have. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)
I continued to watch him for a few minutes. He always waived and smiled even to those who gave nothing. He talked to his dog and the dogs tail wagged. They love each other.
And then I felt it. In my heart. A love for this man and his dog. And I lowered my head and asked Jesus to forgive me for my judgmental, selfish heart. And I thanked Him for helping me SEE HIM in this man today.
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)
image courtesy of Matt Collamer