36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
We certain treat them that way don’t we? We’ll hand a dollar or some spare change to the man or woman standing at an intersection carrying a sign that reads “anything helps”, but we won’t stop and get to know them. The only reason I’ve given the dollar is it was my misfortune to be stopped at a red light and he/she was standing right outside my window. Guilt or some unnamed discomfort took hold of me and I handed over a dollar. Drove away and prayed I wouldn’t have to do that again.
We all want to help the homeless or street people, but we really don’t actually do any real helping. We leave that to “someone” else. “Let the Government take care of them.” Come the holiday season, our sense of generosity and inclusion collide and we may serve at a “Soup Kitchen”, make donation to a charity or give an extra dollar to the Soul on 28th street. But we really don’t spend much time thinking about homeless folks do we. At least I don’t – or didn’t.
True Story: And I only tell it because it shows my own care-less-ness. I’ve only told this story to my wife Karen. Why I’m sharing it with you now is not for you to think I’m something special. Those of you who know me know I’m just an average guy. And don’t assume I have this open and overwhelming heart for the homeless or street people. It just a story that I had not thought about since the day it happened. Today I’m thinking about it. So here goes.
I was driving into town in mid-August to meet my wife and get a pedicure. (Yes, I get those every couple of months.) Following my “pedi” I was going to go and buy myself a new pair of sandals. I was preparing for my knee replacement and you just can’t go to the hospital with gigantic toenails. And Of course I need some new sandals to wear in the hospital and at home. Mine were on their 3rd year. Still good – but 3 years was enough. So nice toenails and new sandals were the sole purpose of my trip.
As I’m driving down 61st street here on the outskirts of Boulder I saw a strange thing. A man walking up ahead of me on the side of the road. He was walking in the bike lane, on the black top. I thought it odd. One never sees people walking out in this area. There’s not much around. As I got closer I noticed he was barefoot. He was walking barefoot on blacktop in the middle of August in Boulder where the daytime temperatures usually hangout in the 90’s. I couldn’t imagine what the temperature was on the pavement – but it must have been hot. I was instantly faced with a dilemma. Do I stop and offer him a ride? Or do I keep on driving and spend the rest of the day erasing the memory of ignoring a man in possible need? My inner good-guy who I was trying to fight off, got the best of me and I stopped and asked if he would like a ride. I was secretly praying he wouldn’t – But indeed he did.
He got into the passenger seat and off we went towards downtown Boulder. I was about to be taught a lesson. Not in generousity or humility – but in humanity.
I started the conversation by asking his name. He said something appropriately weird, like Rainbow Ukiah or something like that, but quickly added his parents had named him Bryan. I told him I was going to downtown Boulder and I could take him that far or drop him anywhere in between. “Downtown is fine”, he said. We chatted easily. I estimated his age as mid 20’s to early 30’s. Most likely in his 20’s. I didn’t ask where he lived, but when I asked why he was walking barefoot, he said his shoes were back at his campsite. Okay, not something I’d leave at a campsite, but whatever…
We drove about for about 5-10 minutes conversing lightly. As we neared my destination he thanked me for the ride. I asked, “Do you believe in God?” He said something noncommittal and I responded by saying that “I think God wanted me to give you a ride today.” “Well, I sure appreciate it.” He said.
Soon and probably not soon enough for Bryan we parked in front of the “nail salon”. We both got out and as I was closing the door of the car God said; “Give him your sandals and the $10 bill in your pocket.” “What?” I thought. Again, I felt God’s hand. “Give him your sandals and the $10 bill in your pocket.” And so as we stood in front of my car and he was thanking me again for the lift I slipped off my sandals and said, “Here, why don’t you take these.” His look said it all. He was truly stunned by the gesture. “Thanks man, but now you don’t have shoes.” I told him I was intending to go buy myself a new pair after my pedicure. Bryan, somehow didn’t burst into laughter when I told him I was headed for a pedicure.
Instead he slipped his dirty feet into his new pair of old sandals. They fit “perfectly”. I mean – “perfectly!”
Then I handed him that $10 bill and said “Here take this too. in case you get hungry later.” There just happened to be a burritto joint just across the parking lot. Coincidence?
Bryan was speechless. It was obvious no one had treated him as another human being in a long time. He gave me a hug, which I gladly returned. He was such a nice guy, once I looked beyond the clothes, the hair, the dirt and his new/old sandals. Underneath it all was – me. Just another guy who had taken a different road in life. But on that day. 2 distant roads criss-crossed.
And so it was on one hot August day in Boulder 2013, standing outside a nail salon, two of God’s children met and became brothers. When I came out of the nail salon, Bryan was sitting at a outside community table eating a burrito the size of Rhode Island and drink a huge cup of Coca-Cola. He had a huge smile on his face. He thanked me again. He looked happy and well feed.
Did God put us together to teach me a lesson? I think he taught us both a lesson. He loves us all. Equally! Unconditionally! As we parted I said “God loves you, Bryan.” Bryan hoisted his cup of Coca-Cola in a salute or was it praise? I haven’t seen him since. But I’m hoping someday he remembers me. Not for the sandals and the $10. But that I was the stranger who showed him God’s love and drove away.