As I hurried to climb into bed and snuggle between my soft, warm sheets, I thanked God for my house, and bed, on this very cold night. I even thought about how terrible it must be, to not have a warm place to sleep on a cold night like this particular night. I said a quick prayer for those who had no shelter.
Meanwhile, he slept between the garbage cans and the playground fence, beside his bicycle and two small wagons full of all of his earthly belongings. I had gone to bed before my husband, and did not know that the town police had called to ask if it was okay for the man to sleep there. Had I known, I hope I would have been able to come up with a plan to give him a comfortable night's rest. I would have done anything in my power to get him off the street. Common sense says keep people like him at arm's length. They might be dangerous. We have a family to think about. But, I didn't even know about him until the next morning when we pulled up to the church.
There he was. Sitting between the garbage cans and the playground fence. One of our young men was sitting on the ground talking with him. Another of our members had already made a run to a local fast food restaurant to buy him some breakfast. We looked in our church clothes closet for the one thing he asked for...a rain jacket. He was invited to join us for worship. After fretting about his appearance, he agreed that he could use the fellowship, and came on inside. He sat, not alone in the back, but toward the middle, flanked by two of our unmarried young men who had befriended him. He had a strong handshake and looked me straight in the eye when I introduced myself to him and welcomed him to the service.
After the service, he stood and talked for a few minutes, even sharing a couple of jokes with us. He denied our pleas to let us provide lunch for him saying that one meal a day was all he usually ate, and that he had a bottle and a half of water, two Powerades and a Pepsi, so he was good to go.
He went out one door, and we quickly scrambled to gather up what little cash we had. My husband went out the side door and caught him in time to persuade him to take the cash. I snapped a picture, and we drove away.
There is a lot I do not know about this man. I don't know what circumstances brought him to this place in his life. I don't know about his family, or his upbringing. I don't know if he ever had it all and lost it, or if he never had anything to lose.
But I know his name. I know a teeny tiny snapshot of his story. And I know that he stole my heart this morning. I know that I have nothing to complain about, and everything to be thankful for. I know that some of my church family members are capable of showing true, unconditional love. I know that some people out there are grateful for the very little that they have, and not so greedy as to take everything from those who are willing to give. I know that I have never rubbed elbows with an honest to goodness homeless person before, but I know that I am a better person for my brief encounter with Mr. R. G.
God, please bless Mr. R. G. and give him safety as he travels. Please help him get to his destination quickly, and please put precious loving people in his path to make his trip easier. Lord, please give him a warm safe place to sleep each night. And Lord, help me to see his face each time I am tempted to turn away and not help those who are in need of Your love.