It was on our road trip to the East Coast. We stopped in a small town in New Mexico to grab some fast food for dinner. As we were sitting at our table, we saw what appeared to be a homeless man walk across the street towards our window.
It’s sad to me, that our first thought was, “avoid eye contact.” How selfish and shallow are we.
But he didn’t even look at us or inside. He dug through a trashcan a little bit, then went around the restaurant and did the same thing and started on his way. In this time period, my family all started discussing him. Could we give him money? No, not a good idea? Food?
My husband and daughter decided to go outside and tell him that if he’d wait, they would buy him a burger. But they were too late. He was already gone.
After dinner, my daughter wanted to try and go find him. I didn’t imagine we would and didn’t want to go in scary places to try and look – plus we did need to get back on the road.
My husband went up the road a little bit to turn and get on a road that took us back on the freeway. And there we saw him. Coming across the parking lot of a convenience store.
We turned around and followed him down a side street where we were finally able to pull up beside him and roll down the window.
I admit. I was still nervous. I had the car doors locked. His hair was ratty. Very ratty. I don’t know when the last time was that he’d had a shower or washed his hair and it showed. His pants were baggy.
My husband said, “Excuse me. We saw you back at the Burger King and were wondering….are you hungry?”
At first, he said something in a quiet voice. None of us could hear him or understand and his head was looking at the ground. My husband asked again – “Are you hungry?”
He looked up and I made eye contact with him. In a quiet voice he said, “I’m okay.” So what could we do? We said okay and proceeded on our way.
I can’t get his eyes out of my head. He looked younger than I’d guessed he’d be. With a tattoo beside his left eye. And a beard. But pretty eyes.
And as we pulled away, my heart also was pulled. Who was he? What was his story? How did he wind up that way?
And God spoke to my heart.
I pray he matters to someone else. Does he have a father or a mother who love him? A sibling? Is someone out there who cares deeply and is praying for him or did he come from a rough home and has lived a rough life always?
I don’t know.
But he matters.
He matters to God.
And at that moment in time, I was reminded how many walk our streets feeling like they don’t matter. They can’t lift their heads to meet our eyes. They look down. They don’t feel worthy. They don’t feel loved. They don’t know how to help themselves.
They need us.
We can go all around the world. But we have people at home, on our own land, who are sick. Homeless. Lost. Lonely.
They need us.
For they matter. Each one. Even if they make you a bit nervous.
What will you do the next time you see someone who is so apparently on the street?
Will you turn your head? Drive away? Or at least ask if you can offer them a hand?
I just know more of us need to be affected. Touched. And our consciences pricked.
For they matter.