My Homeless Friend, John

Homeless grocery cartSeveral of weeks ago, my small group from church got together and served some homeless folks.  It was a pretty cool setup.  We had tons of food, coffee, juice, clothes, toiletries and a trailer equipped with a large cooking griddle and burners.  Better yet, we had willing hands and feet available to serve and love.

Our goal was to make a bunch of fresh breakfast burritos for the homeless in the area.  Nothing too complicated.

We started cooking in the morning and noticed that the turnout was a little slower than expected.  It was pretty early and we figured that most folks wouldn’t be out and about until mid morning or so……..so a few of us hopped in my truck and starting driving around, looking for people to invite.

The first stop was a park, then down the main drag….our eyes were searching left and right, in hunt for those “in need”…then we saw John.

He was coming up a side street, pushing a grocery cart full of cans.  He had dark sunglasses on, a running nose, a scruffy beard and a heavy heart.  I would guess that he was roughly 35 or so.  He was pretty open to chatting, which was cool.  We invited him up the road for a burrito and some rest….we were about a mile away.  John mentioned that he had to take his pop cans back first and then he may hike up the road later.  I glanced at my friend Jeff with a “should we?” look and then we proceeded to get creative.  We ended up putting John’s grocery cart in the back of my truck and my other buddy David sat in the back with it, bracing the cart so it didn’t fall over.  John sat in the front seat with me, while Jeff squeezed into my small back seat.  One big happy family!

When we arrived to our location, all of us piled out of the truck and we made sure that John was fed and comfortable.  There were other homeless folks there also: one gal was sitting in a corner, talking with one of the team.  Others were chatting about the “system” and how hard it was to get ahead in life when faced with such a steep uphill climb.  Most of the conversations were laced with hopelessness, paranoia and the desperate confusion of what to do next.  It was a humbling, eye-opening experience and I was grateful that my friends and I were able to be there.  To listen.

After an hour or two, John had to get going, so we headed back up the road to return his cans.  Jeff was in the back this time, holding the grocery cart in place and just John and I were in the truck together.  What a great, short, yet powerful conversation we had!

In a nutshell, I thanked him for coming with us and for sharing his story.  I felt the need to be kind of blunt with him.  I mentioned that I noticed his hopelessness.  That maybe he thought his past mistakes defined him.  That maybe he thought God somehow looked down on him for who he was and the choices that he’s made.  John agreed with me in a simple, yet moving way….he nodded and began to cry.  His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, but I felt his pain and I heard his desperate need to be loved.  I felt God’s powerful presence in that truck.

The few words that I could muster were “Jesus loves you man.”  That’s about it.  We talked a little about forgiveness and grace and in about 5 minutes, we were unloading his cart and he was visiting with his buddies at the can return.  Short but sweet….so sweet.  God works in crazy ways doesn’t He?!

My hope is that John was encouraged that day.  I know I was!  Only God knows outcomes and heart conditions and I’m ok with that.  It was an honor to be a part of God’s plan and to serve strangers with a group of selfless people.

The homeless folks weren’t the only ones being fed that Saturday morning.  My soul was filled to overflowing.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

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