Dani and I were Christmas shopping. I was determined to get the last of it done yesterday, ten full days before Christmas. I did most of my shopping on line this year, but there are always those few odds and ends and things that just aren’t practical to order through a web site. We had several stops to make, but I’d made my list, checked it twice, and we had a fairly purposeful route planned out. I would enjoy being a passenger while Dani drove. Somewhere along the line I remembered that Copper had asked us to pick up communion cups for church. Rats! Another stop!
But God’s plans are not our plans.
We were stopped at a signal at a busy intersection, on our way to pick up those communion cups, when I spotted him. A man, carrying his possessions in a back pack, with a bed roll across the top, his young dog leashed and walking by his side. We noticed the taped together, partial bag of dog food tied to his pack. Across the back pack was a hand lettered, cardboard sign, written in red ink. The sign simply said, “Hungry”. He wasn’t on the corner with his hand out. He wasn’t standing behind his “hungry” sign watching for the windows of passing motorists to roll down and hand him some money. He and his dog were just walking.
My girl and I quickly tried to figure where we might best encounter this man. Our light was still red and he was moving away from us but headed in the same direction we were.
Maybe we could pull in and catch him at the bus turn out. Our signal was still red, and he was already passing the turn out. When the light clicked green, I pointed Dani toward a driveway that would take us behind the buildings of a shopping center, a driveway primarily used by delivery trucks. We passed the walking man on our way by. His head was down as he walked.
Dani keeps a supply of McDonald’s gift cards in the console of our car. In my mad scramble to quickly grab one of those cards, my shopping list fell in the narrow gap between my seat and the console, I bruised the back of my hand on the hard plastic insert of the console, and I generally created havoc in the front seat of the car! Yeah, that’s me. Graceful. McDonald’s card in hand, I got out of the car, walked to the sidewalk and said, “Hi” to the man.
He was so young! Around Dani’s age, I’d guess. I asked him, “Are you hungry?”. His eyes met mine with a bit of caution. I asked again, “Your sign says you’re hungry. Are you?” He nodded yes. The dog strained at his leash toward me, and I stepped back. “Is the dog okay?”. “Yeah, he’s fine. Friendly.”
“Here’s a $5 McDonald’s gift card for you. McDonald’s is back around the corner that way”, and I pointed. He smiled! “For sure”, he said, his smile widening, his face beaming, and then, “Thank you.” His smile was genuine, and full of gratitude. That smile made him look even younger. I left him with a “God bless you” as we parted ways.
By the time I was back in my car, he was headed back in the direction he’d come from, headed for that McDonald’s and a simple meal. He held his head up now, and there was a bit of a spring in his step. His back was again towards me, but I could still see that smile.
The Gingerbread Latte that Dani had bought for me earlier was still warm. I sipped it all day. The drink cost almost as much as the card I’d given that young man, that hungry young man, to buy a meal.
I’ve thought of that young man many times today. His unassuming way. His caution at being approached by a stranger. But mostly I remember his smile, and the gift it was to me.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 NASB