An opportunity missed...
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
This past week my kids and I were back in Texas visiting with my family. It was a busy (quite frankly busy is an understatement) week with lots of chaos (a bit of stress...ok a lot stress) and I remember throwing this internal pity party more times then I would like to admit because of just....well, life going on. There I was in the middle of the week (this past Wednesday to be exact) and I was thrown a bit of a curve ball to help readjust my perspective for a bit...and all I can say is that I needed that. Around 6:45 pm I found myself pulling up to a Starbucks because I had some work that I needed to get done on my laptop and at that point, I felt overwhelmed and annoyed and stressed (I know, I sound like a Debbie Downer...I'm human, don't judge) because I had a lot on my plate that day and was going off very little sleep. Well I walk in, put my backpack and computer down on one of the tables so that I had my own spot, grabbed my wallet, and then stood in line to order me a much needed coffee (it was my first coffee in like 4 almost 5 days so you can bet I was looking forward to it.) I get in line completely annoyed (internally of course...I'm not crazy lol) about just how "rough" my day and week was going when I noticed the gentleman in front of me. I noticed right away that "he" was completely "different" than the rest of us...well...at least, in my honest opinion, that's how he was being perceived and is probably often perceived by many as "different". In all reality though, all humans are (when it comes down to it) all really just the same. We all breathe the same air...all have the same creator...all have many of the same basic wants and desires...all want to be loved and shown compassion.
You see, he was obviously homeless. He was physically dirty, his clothes were not the right fit, and his shoes were falling apart. He also had blisters all over his face, which were obviously the handiwork of the sun and time it spent etching it upon his face. If you know anything about South Texas summers, you'd clearly understand. He stood there in line clearly knowing that people were staring at him...almost as if we had more authority to be in there than him. I remember genuinely smiling at him and telling him hi. It was his turn to order and orders an "ice cup of water and free sample cup of coffee." Although I had a strong feeling that his order would be something along the lines of this, it broke my heart...for a couple of reasons. For one, this man clearly needed and desired more than he was able to (for a lack of better words) afford that day and was going through a legit rough day...week...months...I'm not sure. Secondly, I started to feel conviction for how I was thinking and acting earlier about how "rough" my life was at the time. While I was doing a decent job internalizing my frustration to hide them from others, God is omniscient and was fully aware of my negativity that I was carrying around. I felt guilty for being such a brat and was genuinely sorry for being that way.
I placed my order for my fancy coffee and snack and while I am no where even close to being rich, it was one that I didn't even have to think twice about how I was going to pay for it. I sat and waited for my coffee as I watched him pick up his order and sit (just two seats away from me) so that he could rest and enjoy it. As tired as I was from my lack of sleep (you know from how "rough" life was for me), I bet it didn't compare to how drained he felt. I felt compelled to go...quite frankly the Holy Spirit was demanding me...to go and speak to him. I quickly got up, went to him, and asked him his name. John, his name was John. (I apologize, John, if I misspelled your name) I asked him if he was hungry, to which he hesitated for a bit and eventually replied no thanks that he was ok. I smiled and said ok...but that I would buy him whatever he wanted...again he politely declined. I then smiled and went back to my table so that I could get started on the work I had to do on my laptop. By this point, that conviction and guilt (quite humbling I must add) that had began to settle in a bit earlier was helping to shift my perspective a bit and soften my heart to realize that man...I know I'm human and deal with stress just like anybody else...but goodness, I have it pretty good and needed to stop complaining (even if it was done internally) so much.
I had already been well into what I needed to get done when (maybe 6,7 mins later) John comes up to me and without hesitation asked me if I could buy him a drink instead. Of course I said yes. John went up to the counter and placed his order (3 espressos over ice) and I remember the employees looking at him kind of strange, so I stepped in and told them he could order whatever he wanted. When I said that, you could immediately see their demeanor change and soften a bit. You could see that he was so grateful because he would not stop thanking me...over a drink that cost me a few bucks...and there I was not much more than 10 minutes earlier having a terrible attitude towards my "problems." Okay God...I heard you. I told him that it was nothing and thanked him and made sure to call him "John." I think being called by your name is so often taken for granted because in a way it humanizes us and for him in this moment, he wasn't this homeless man...he was "John." On my way out, I told him that if he ever saw me around to say hi and that was the last I saw of John.
Now, I know I am totally setting myself up for criticism here because the moment I mention that I bought a coffee for a homeless man, I'm pretty much making it about myself. It's like I'm saying, "look at me and what I just did." I get it. I wrote this post knowing I will get some criticism for it, but I felt compelled to write it...not to let people know that I did such an act, but for another point which I will get to here shortly. You see, I simply participated in a part of humanity that we should all be doing. I don't deserve an award or a pat on the back for doing such a thing so please take the participation trophy away. As human beings, we should look out for each other, but as a Christian I have no excuse not help those I see that are struggling. God doesn't suggest to maybe help...no he tells us to. It's clearly written in his word. For instance, 1 John 3: 17 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" I want to emphasize that helping others in need can be done in more ways than one...it doesn't have to be monetarily. It's just how I did so that day.
What I did that day is not something new for me. I actually buy food/drinks for homeless people whenever I physically and financially can. Again...not looking for an applause here...just trying to make a point. There was one thing I did, or I guess I should say that I didn't do, differently that day. It was an opportunity I missed. Often what I tell them when I get them something to eat or drink, is that I would like to pray for them or with them. I forgot to do that on that day and I realized it after I left and it bugged me that I forgot. You see, you just never know when you might meet someone that hasn't accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and I don't like to waste those opportunities. Or you never know when you might meet someone who knows about Him, but still is unsure if Jesus is worth following and maybe they just need some more encouragement. One of the things I try to pray for every morning is for God to help me not to waste any opportunity that I might come across where I can help to spread the Gospel to someone. You might be the one to help plant a seed in their hearts or maybe that seed has been planted from another one of God's followers and you can be another person to help water that seed. Ultimately, God is the one who changes hearts...not me nor any other Christian...but He utilizes his followers to help bring His people back to Him. Remember God doesn't ask us to go out and help Him...no he commands it. In Matthew 28:19 he tells us to "go and make disciples of all nations." Later that night, it was still bugging me that I hadn't prayed for him or with him. I could not fall asleep, with as tired as I was, and then it hit me...why, Christina, are you trying to handle this on your own?? I immediately started to pray and asked God to watch over John and that I truly hoped he knew and had a relationship with Jesus and to bring some kind of comfort to him through his troubling times. I don't know John's story or what got him to this point, but I do know that I'll keep praying for him. And as I wake tomorrow, I'll pray to God that He helps me not to miss opportunities.