I was visiting Baltimore with my wife the other day. We were waiting at the bus stop for the shuttle to take us back to our hotel.
When he arrived at the bus stop no one approached him for his autograph. No one sought any pearls of wisdom. No one wanted his Twitter name or if he had a Facebook page. He didn't look to be a man of means. He wasn't a thought leader, author, or professor (at least not by appearance.) He was a simple man. Long beard, long hair, tall and lanky. Old pants and a worn leather jacket. He moved slowly and was considerate of those around him.
He had a kind look on his face. It was clear this was just another routine: go to the bus stop trash and seek out an unfinished lunch or a half eaten piece of fruit. He didn't seem resentful. He simply went about his business. Not saying a word, he found a small white bag, opened it and found a small treasure. Lunch is served.
Meanwhile I stood there waiting for the shuttle and stole glances in his direction. Earlier, I had eaten a crab cake sandwich and bowl of crab bisque for MY lunch. I ate it outside in the warm sun enjoying the company of my beautiful wife. We had sat at a quaint table surrounded by flowers and smiling wait staff.
But now, this was my homeless moment. Have you ever had one of these? Afterward on the shuttle, my mind raced (it still races today). I was brought up to help people. I learned that there will always be people better off and worse off than me. But I froze that day at the bus stop. I didn't offer any help. Why did I freeze? Why didn't I do something? The answer is quite simple. I wasn't prepared. I was engrossed in me and my wife (not a bad thing in itself, just incomplete).
I consider this moment a test of my character. We are all stewards of opportunity. How we seize a moment lies not in the moment itself but in the preparation ahead of the moment. This homeless moment revealed to me my inadequate time alone with God in preparation for times like these. One could argue I was sort of homeless myself – not truly at home in Christ. My commitment to everyday giving demands this kind of preparedness.
Would the homeless man have responded to my offer for lunch if I had been prepared? Doesn't matter. It would have been mine to obey. Period. The results are not for me to claim.
Looking ahead: Will I respond to the next homeless I see? You bet. Will I offer lunch? Maybe, maybe not. It may simply be a handshake. A smile. Or maybe I will embark on a conversation, give some cash, or point to a shelter I know about. It's God's role to work through me. It's my role to be prepared.
What about you? Are you prepared to give?
Scott Couchenour, guest blogger
Certified Life Coach
VP of Operations
9 thoughts on “A Homeless Moment”
This is a powerful post.
I used to work with a non-profit in Portland, called Potluck in the Park, which provides a free meal every Sunday (the only day of the week which shelters do not serve) to anyone who is hungry. During my time there, I had many conversations with Portland’s homeless population, and learned a lot from these people. I learned how lucky I am to be in my current situation. I also learned that sometimes talking to someone is the best gift you can give them. Do I always have the time to stop and chat with these unfortunate people? No. However, the point is that these are real people with real life experiences from which we can learn lessons.
Given the nature and title of this blog, I feel compelled to mention my current organization, CafeGive. We are an online shopping portal which donates a percentage of every transaction to charity. What makes us different from other such sites is the ability to choose which cause you benefit, from an ever-growing list of 40 non-profits. CafeGive provides the chance to give back everyday, without having to change much behavior. Visit http://cafegive.com, specifically the “shop” link, choose which cause you feel most passionate about, and then shop at one of our 250 merchants. If you already shop online, this is a great (and very easy) opportunity to do some real good in the world. We add several new non-profit organizations every month, so there’s sure to be something which connects to everyone. Try CafeGive to feel good about the online shopping you already do!
Hi Scott, nice post Just wanted you to know we tweeted this on our Twitter channel @foyble_org. I think I’ll try to work this into our “payitforward ninja” series on the blog. Blog.foyble.com. Keep up the good work!
Thanks Brian. Just trying to be real with everyday life moments of giving. God bless!
My husband and I have been working with the homeless veterans over the last couple of years. Those people who provide services to the homeless have all told us that it is better to give an energy bar or a food coupon than money, because money enables them to buy alcohol and other forms of self-medication. As long as you’re okay with that, then donate the $$. But I think the true need is food, water, a kind smile and an acknowledgement of a fellow human being.
Patty, that’s great advise. Thanks for sharing it. I especially resonate with the need for a “kind smail and acknowledgement of a fellow human being.”
Great post, very powerful. I live in Chicago and encounter this situation on a daily basis. Its hard to say, but you become immune to the emotions attached to seeing people on the street. My mother raised me to care about others and her lessons are still with me today and i try to give as much as I can.
Katie, oh may we never get numb to the pain of others. Thanks for commenting.
Brendon, I was just rereading your comment. Thanks so much for sharing a real solution like cafegive. We need to make caring an everyday life thing.
A great post, and I agree that it is better to give food than money. It is so much more helpful than giving money.