Saturday, July 23, 2011

Extraordinary Random Moment of Grace

We in the City of Brotherly Love have a saying: It's not the heat, it's the humidity.  It's the oppressive cloud of moisture in the air that makes taking a shower seem almost fruitless.  Nothing contributes to crankiness and short tempers like the kind of weather we're having now.  I have to say that compared to yesterday, it almost feels like a cold front hit us overnight.  Even though the temperature is in the mid-90's right now, it's nearly a relief in contrast to the 103 degree heat we endured yesterday.

The dearth of food in this house compelled me to take a trip to the grocery store, especially since daughter #1 invited herself to dinner this evening. I reminded myself that I should offer the discomfort up for the souls in Purgatory and it was all I could do not to stop for a lemon ice on the way there.   When I exited the store pushing my shopping cart full of stuff for dinner tonight and beyond, I encountered a homeless man wearing worn-out sneakers, dirty pants and a football jersey that no longer bore the name of a famous running back. I shook my head because I saw him talking to himself, walking back and forth, and I worried that maybe the heat and humidity were getting to him.

Despite what people think, it's this kind of weather rather than the cold which is deadly for fragile people.  I looked around quickly to see if there were any street vendors nearby where I could buy the man a drink, but I  didn't see anyone.  I paused under the shade of a tree to see what kind of money I had with me when the person in question approached me.  He gave me a lecture for going to the supermarket when the Italian Market was so close by.  His speech was rapid-fire and difficult to understand, but here and there I would catch a phrase.  As he started to depart, I asked him if I could buy him a cold drink.  I had four one-dollar bills on me and I handed them to him, asking him to be careful in the heat.  He paused.

"Tell you what.  Let's do the blessing thing," he said, handing the money back to me.

"The blessing thing?"

"You put this in the collection plate at church and say a prayer for me".

"I can do both - I can buy you a drink and pray for you."

"I'd rather you give it to the church."

"God bless you, be assured of my prayers", I said, and he waved and went on his way.

I am very sensitive to homeless people. Not only because it's the right thing to do, to be concerned about a stranger who might  be in need, but also because I know this is often how Christ chooses to come to us, in the least of our brethren.  I've never had anyone refuse money or food and ask me to pray for them instead.  Ordinarily, I will buy someone food or drink rather than give them money, but I didn't like the confused way this gentleman was walking back and forth, talking to himself.  I'd rather have taken the chance that the money would be spent on booze or worse than ignore him.

Perhaps you might in your charity remember this man and those like him in your prayers.


  1. Goosebumps here, and not because I'm cold.

  2. I realized later, Julie, that our first instinct is to want to meet someone's physical needs when what they may really want is to have their soul looked after. When I first observed this man's behavior, I was sure he was mentally ill, and I always approach his type with a bit of caution because you never know when an encounter can turn violent. He sure taught me a thing or two.

  3. I will offer up this man in prayer too...
    Angels unaware..

  4. Very interesting. I wonder what it all means, the fact that he refused your money, I mean. Was he secretly rich, was he insulted, was he very satisfied with his life as it is? What a blessing it must be to only want prayer and nothing more! I want to be like that. I will pray for the man in your encounter.

  5. That was nice of you to offer a drink. A lot of people wouldn't have thought about it.

  6. What a beautiful thing to do and for him to request that. I am reluctant to give money to the homeless because I figure it only encourages their dysfuntions. I have never had one tell me to give the money away. You have shamed me. I will do better than I have. God bless the both of you.

  7. Oh, Manny, this post wasn't meant to shame you or anyone else. I have probably spent more time than most people encountering and sometimes looking after homeless people. I cannot imagine walking the streets in this kind of heat without a cool drink.

    Anne, I considered the same thing, that perhaps he was insulted, but it didn't seem that way. I have, on occasion, mistaken someone sloppily dressed for a homeless person and their reaction has made me want to crawl under a rock. I simply think this little encounter was one of God's many blessings on me. The interesting thing is that this man was headed in the opposite direction of where I was standing, and then suddenly, he was along side me. God's grace at work, I like to think. I so often think of the physical needs of the homeless and downtrodden that it's easy to forget they have spiritual needs, too.


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