Recently, my kids and I were driving away from Chik-fil-a with a bag full of chicken biscuit breakfast sandwiches. As we drove away we saw a man standing with a sign which simply said, “homeless.” I turned to the kids and asked, “What can we do kids? I don’t have any cash.” Each kid volunteered their breakfast.
When we approached the man I told him, “I only have a pocket full of change, which you can have, but we have a bag of chicken sandwiches, would you like them?” The man gratefully took the change and thanked me for the food but told me he had cancer and his stomach wouldn’t be able to digest the food. My heart went out and I asked him a few questions. I asked him if we could pray for him and we did. He told me that day after day, he sees cars with Christian fish on the back, but they never stop. (When a friend heard this story he thought it was a good reminder not to have a Christian fish on your vehicle, ha!) I told the man we were stopping in Jesus’ name and we would pray and see if we could find a way to help him further.
How can a mom and a car full of kids help a homeless man on the street?
We drove away and prayed for wisdom in how we might help this man. The name of a church near our home, with which we have no relationship, kept coming to mind. I called right away and a woman answered and listened to our story. Astonished, she told me that they had JUST gotten a flood of gift cards to give away for this very purpose. She said a house had recently been set up to help people get on their feet again. This man’s story sounded like it may qualify to stay in the home. She was going to go to him right away to see if they could get him off the street and give him some direction.
When I hung up, and realized this woman with a big heart sounded like she was going alone to pick up an unknown man and get him off the street, I panicked. I called back and said, “Please, don’t go alone.” She laughed and said, “The moment we got off the phone, our maintenance man came in and I told him about our conversation. He said he would come with me!” God had orchestrated this day, from beginning to end, so that He could show His love to a hurting man.
As I thought of this man being greeted with gift cards and the possibility of a warm bed for the night, I was reminded of a time back in my college days. I was walking downtown Denver with a friend. We saw various homeless people out on the sidewalk. My friend approached a man, gave him some money and talked about the love of God. As we walked away, I remember challenging this friend with, “How can you give him cash? What if he just drinks it away?” (I have many gifts, but mercy is not high on the list…I’m growing!) My friend just smiled and said, “I’m not responsible for what he does with that money! I am responsible for showing God’s love. How can I show God’s love if I can’t even help contribute to basic needs? Usually I like to have some kind of gift card for food or a granola bar. If I don’t have one with me, I’ll give cash.” I was floored. I’d never considered this perspective. Not kidding. But, obviously, this message of love from a brother in Christ stuck with me to this day.
My daughter and I decided to act. Twelve of her girlfriends came over and we spent a Saturday morning putting together “Homeless packs.” We gathered items we thought might be useful. The girls filled the bags and then they made cards with positive messages of God’s love and scripture to add to each pack.
Recently, on our way to a homeschool field trip, my daughter said, “Oh Mom, look! A homeless man! Pull over!” We pulled over and handed him a bag. The man took the bag and his eyes got teary when he said, “You even added hand warmers. Bless you!” I handed him some cash and said, “Maybe you can get a sandwich for lunch.” He smiled and said, “oh bless you, bless you.” And then, I noticed the car behind us pulled up to him as well and my heart swelled with joy.
I drove away thinking of all we have and how our gift to him was pitiful in light of our bounty. Yet, I had hope that hand warmers were an expression of God’s love in this man’s life today. God was glorified in a small exchange of some hand warmers and socks. And a mom and a van full of kids was able to serve a homeless man on the street.
Homeless pack ideas: band-aids socks mouth wash/toothpaste/toothbrushes protein bars bottled water (in warm climates) hand warmers (for colder places) lip balm lotion deodorant/soap cash or gift cards