Sunday, March 21, 2010
Everybody's seen this type of sign before. Whether it's along the side of the road, or in a crowded city street or park, our society is filled with people in need.
This morning, I played piano and attended the worship services at Bethel Church as usual. Following the second service of the day (third of the weekend), I began the trek back down Highway 30 towards Valpo. After first stopping at the Honeybaked Ham cafe (unfortunately, they were closed), I continued driving until I saw an elderly gentleman holding such a sign on the side of the road. I'm not sure what it was about that moment that broke my heart. Perhaps it was because this was the first time I saw an individual standing along Highway 30, praying for a passerby to stop, or maybe it was some inner guilt of mine because typically I'm not the person that stops. Today was different.
It's my "personal policy" not to hand out money, so I choose to hand out food. Ever since I participated in a missions trip to inner city Los Angeles before my junior year in high school, I have attempted to mentally approach these situations in a different manner. Most of the time, I continue walking...if I'm to be perfectly honest. For example, I just returned from Europe a week ago, and failed to hand out any food. It's scary, it's uncomfortable, and it's challenging. Again, today was different.
I drove past the man and continued on to the next intersection which had a Subway inside the gas station. I walked in and ordered a $5 footlong. This also sounds bizarre, but I had no idea what to put on the sub. I tried to think of the most generic sub sandwich, in fear that he might not like mayonnaise or peppers. Three minutes later, I walked back out with a turkey sub on Italian bread, with American cheese, lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes. On the drive back to the gentleman, my heart was racing. Why was I so nervous? I parked my car next to a temporarily closed gas station and walked across the street to the man. He was quite shy and I really didn't know what to say. "I brought a sandwich for you, sir." "Thank you, God bless you." "Have a good day." He shook my hand and I walked away.
Walking back to my car, I realize I didn't say "you too" after he said "God bless you." I hope he received a sense of that though, because even though I didn't say it, I definitely meant it. I got back into my car and saw another vehicle pull over to the side of the road and hand the man some cash. But perhaps what struck me the most was that this man, somebody's son, and possibly somebody's dad, grandpa, and brother, didn't eat the sandwich when I was there. He went and set it along the side of a fence and continued to hold up the sign. I'm not sure if I was expecting him to eat immediately or what, but it reminded me that if he's holding up a sign for food, he's going to need a lot more than a Subway footlong. He waved at me as I drove by. I waved back. And that was it. The interaction was less than two minutes long.
Back at my apartment, my heart was still racing. Still not sure why. Maybe it's the realization that if my grandpa was standing along the side of a highway, I would buy him all the food he wanted for the rest of his life. So why would I do so much for someone I know and love and do so comparatively little for a stranger? It's definitely something I'll be thinking about for awhile.