We stopped in Tucumcari, New Mexico for gas on the way home from our family vacation to California last week. At the offramp sat an older man, slight in stature, sitting a bit huddled over with a small suitcase in front of him and a cardboard sign that read… "Old man hungry – God bless."
The trucker in front of us paused slightly and handed him something out of his window. My husband thought about giving him the change from the little change cup we keep in the van. It wouldn’t have been much, but I still prefer providing a meal to handing out cash. I mentioned that I would rather get him a gift certificate to eat and we proceeded on to the gas station. We filled our gas tank, used the restrooms, and got Jenna a Sunny Delight. On the road, you see many people with cardboard signs. I still had that nagging feeling that I was supposed to get this "hungry old man" a gift certificate for a meal.
Lots of thoughts ran through my mind in a few quick moments. What if it’s a scam? What if there is no real need? What if he sits out there all the time and we don’t know any different? On the other hand, I know that what I do for the "least of these," I do unto Him and that there is a scripture that tells us not to forget to show love to strangers because we never know when we are "entertaining angels unaware." The worst thing that can happen… we can be out ten dollars. No matter what decision I make, I am also mindful that my 16 year old daughter is watching closely.
I have decided on a gift certificate for the man. There is an Arby’s at this particular travel stop. Unfortunately, the cashier knows little about how to ring up a gift certificate. This is taking much longer than I had expected. She consults a few times with another employee and my family is growing restless. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. The cashier completes the transaction then wonders if she put one dollar or ten dollars on the certificate. I explain that it is for a homeless man and that I need to make sure there is $10.00 on it. She asked me if it was for the man with the suitcase. I told her yes. She shrugged and nearly rolled her eyes, telling me that he had been out there for a couple of weeks, adding that someone had just given him $20.00 that morning. I doubt again. I question the time we have taken with this process. Maybe our hunches were wrong. I decide, however, that I’d rather ere on the side of obedience to that "still, small voice" that so often gets drowned out by the day’s activities. I know I was prompted to give, so we gave.
We headed back to deliver the gift card. He saw us slow down and began walking toward our van. My husband rolled down his window to hand him the gift. We were surprised to see a man who looked healthy and clean with the clearest, most beautiful blue eyes I think I may have ever seen. They were striking. They were piercing. As we talked later, Jenna described his t-shirt as "bright white," not at all what we were expecting from someone sitting on the side of the road. On the top of his head was a red, white and blue ball cap that said, ‘I love Jesus.’ We talk to him for a few moments, hand him the gift card, and encourage him to get a meal. He thanked us and wished us God’s blessings. As soon as we began to drive away, we all began talking… "Did you see his eyes?!!!" Jenna continually commented on all that she had observed, still in awe of his piercing blue eyes, his cleanliness and his kind face.
Moments… they can be so easily minimized or even missed. Some of us keep our eyes wide open… watching and waiting for them. They are what give meaning to our flurry of activities and truckloads of belongings. Being connected to others, in any given moment, is what makes life worthwhile. Perhaps this ‘moment’ was just a lesson in obedience or not judging others. We decided, however, in the instance of this particular ‘stranger’, we’re going with the "angel" theory!
Encouraging you to be mindful of your moments!