I live near a Panera Bread, and it makes for such an easy meeting location. Recently, on a Sunday afternoon, a man going through a difficult time called and asked me to meet him there. On our way in, I noticed a homeless man sitting on a bench nearby. I didn’t think much of it until I was leaving.
As I began to drive away from Panera, I sensed the Lord prompting me to go back and help him. I didn’t know what to do or say and I wasn’t real comfortable with the idea of getting back out in the 30-degree weather, especially considering it was raining. Nonetheless, at what I believed to be the Lord’s prompting, I turned around, parked, and walked up to the man.
As I entered into a conversation, I was informed someone had just purchased him a fresh cup of coffee and a nice warm meal. I was also informed that there was another guy up the street at Walgreens who really needed my help.
At this point, a private conversation quickly ran through my head, “What? As if it wasn’t awkward enough walking up to you. Like I’m going to inconvenience myself even more by driving down the street looking for someone I don’t even know?”
I nodded politely, blessed the man, and began walking to my car feeling relieved that my responsibility was over.
As I began to drive off, I was still debating whether or not to go by Walgreens and look for someone I didn’t even know.
I didn’t hear a voice from God saying that I had to do it. I didn’t necessarily sense a prompting of the Spirit. What did happen was a moment of clarity whereby a simple and yet provocative thought entered into my mind: “that could be my child.”
Hard times hit us all. People are homeless for a variety of reasons ranging from addiction, mental illness, injury, financial collapse with no family to help, etc. That man was someone’s son. He might even be someone’s brother or father, uncle or nephew, but what if he were my son?
Well, the debate was over. I drove around and looked for him until I found him walking to another establishment looking for relief from the weather.
I will not share all that I decided to do to help the man, but I will say, it came a lot easier thinking about the reality that this could be my son. I felt compassion (not pity) in a way that I had not in a long time.
Dr. Adam McClendon is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Baptist Church.