All week, I’ve been battling back pain as I mentioned in my last post. That’s given me a lot of time to sit and think and I was remembering about this time two or three years ago when I tried to help a homeless man and he called me a harlot.
I had been in PetSmart shopping. I had taken out $20 for spending money for the week, which is typically more than enough for me to get a couple of diet colas and things here and there (okay, the kids always got most of it). I had just gotten back into my car when I noticed a man in ragged clothes, unkempt, and obviously homeless.
My heart ached for him as I watched him go from trash can to trash can searching for food. He found a little drink left in one and sipped on it. A few fries in the bottom of a fast food bag followed. I immediately knew I need to give him that money so he could get a warm meal. It was one of those moments when God speaks to you and tells you to do something and even though you consider just giving the man $10, you know you need to go ahead and be obedient.
I have to admit that I was feeling pretty good about myself. I mean there are few things that will make you feel quit as warm and fuzzy as sacrificing your diet cola money for someone, especially when you feel God is leading you to do so. Jewel in the crown? Give me one, please. Yes, I was feeling pretty self-righteous and God usually puts me in my place when I feel that way and boy was he about to this time.
I approached the homeless man with the money outstretched and said, “Sir?”
He looked up and his eyes locked with mine. I anticipated his reaction. He’d smile a crooked smile and be grateful for my help. I smiled, waiting for the relief on his face. He slowly lifted his arm, a bony finger pointing at me and screamed the words.
“Get away from me, you harlot. HARLOT! HARLOT!”
So much for my moment of philanthropy. At this point people were staring at me and I hate nothing more than being in the spotlight like that. I had no idea what they were thinking. Did they think maybe I’d propositioned him? I was mortified, honestly. I fled to my car and locked the door as he continued to scream that I was a harlot. I also didn’t know if he’d get violent, because he seemed capable of it.
After a minute or so, he moved on down the row of trash cans. I sat for a moment shaken, before the absurdity of the situation hit me and I started to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Only in my world would I try to help someone and have it turn out like that. I had also never been called a harlot before, so that amused me as I’m about the farthest thing from that in my conservative little world. I had felt pretty good about my “sacrifice”, which honestly wasn’t much of one at all, and God had shown me what happens when you are seeking glory like that.
Still, the plight of the man stayed with me. In addition to the difficulties he would face with the impending winter and being homeless, he obviously had some mental issues he was dealing with. My heart still ached for him. I am at that shopping strip once a week and I started to notice that he would come through every day at a certain time, searching the trash cans for morsels of food. Needless to say, I didn’t try to approach him, but his plight stayed with me and I started to think about how he could be helped in some small way.
How simple it was to purchase a warm meal and deposit it into one of those trash cans about 30 minutes before his routine. The lesson behind all of this, dear friends, isn’t that we need to help others so we can feel better or have their appreciation, but simply because we need to help. He will never know that the “harlot” left that food for him, and he may have refused it had he known, yet I am certain it sated his hunger on that day.
I’ve not seen him around for a while and I still sometimes wonder if he ever got the help he really needed. Look around your world this holiday season. Is there a neighbor whose sidewalks need shoveled? Go shovel them and don’t mention that you did it for her. Is there a homeless shelter that is short on help? Go help. Sometimes the things that are done that are not seen or recognized are the ones that actually make us feel the best and that are the most helpful to others. Remember who should truly get the glory for things and you’ll be able to figure out how to help.