The man on the intersection . . .
How many of us have driven up to an intersection and seen someone in the median, limping back and forth with a sign asking for help? If you’re like me, I am often cynical as media informs me that many of these individuals don’t need my help and often get rich on such ventures. However that perspective was about to get changed . . .
We were coming to the end of a program night at Streetlight when a young man came to the RV to receive some food. Tom was too old to participate in the Streetlight program, however we never turn someone away without food. As I looked at him, I noticed that his legs and feet were soaked from the slush and snow. Since most of the youth had already left, I invited him in to warm up his feet and put on a dry pair of socks.
As Tom entered the RV, I noticed his cardboard sign and recognized him from the one intersection I turned at when driving the mobile youth centre downtown. He was “one of them” I thought to myself. Now I can discover the truth!
As he slowly pulled off his cold wet socks, his withered and completely frost bitten feet emerged. They were sore for him to touch, so he set them on the carpet above the heater to start to warm them up. We then had some food together as he shared about the challenges and opportunities of his day. He also discovered some treasures in people’s trash that he had hoped would provide him with some additional money. That day he figured he had collected enough money for one meal and a motel room for the night. It was a great day!
My perspective shifted. This man, probably in his early thirties, was doing the best he could do to survive his present situation. He wasn’t getting rich, he was simply surviving. What would I do if I were in his situation without family or supports? How would I survive?
I think God brings people like Tom into our lives to give us a perspective check every now and then. We can learn so much if we just take the time to listen to someone’s story before we create a story for them. I’m not saying that there aren’t those out there trying to take advantage of people’s generosity, but in case they are a “Tom”, I will keep some change in my van to give away without cynicism.