Monday, Again! Sometimes I wake up and feel like I am trapped in a time machine that is permanently set to Monday. It’s as if I blink my eyes and another week has gone by. That must be a sign that I need to do something, but I’m too busy right now to try to figure it out.
This morning when I woke I took my customary ten minutes on face book to send out birthday and anniversary messages and to update my prayer request list. But this morning something else caught my eye. It was a video of a Good Samaritan who heard a “voice” telling her to help a homeless man and how God blessed her because she obeyed this voice. It brought immediate negative comments from those who did not understand, but I choose not to go into those because it brought something else to me. It brought not only a smile to my face, but lifted my spirits. It was then that I decided that I would break from routine with my Monday Morning Perspectives. In celebration of the spirit of the holiday season I will share true stories of faith through the month of December, which I hope will bring a smile to your face.
My first story takes place in the small community of Newport, Tennessee- a place I called home for 17 months. When my daughter moved back to Tennessee my husband and I decided to relocate to be near her. Finding a house to rent, however, proved very challenging. With just days before we were set to move we found a “teeny tiny” duplex. It was by far the smallest house we had ever lived in, but it was just 7/10ths of a mile from my daughter and her husband…and a little miracle that would arrive in a couple months.
Our days in Newport were filled with more ups and downs in a short period then we had ever experienced in our lives. Within two months I had been hired to work as a therapist, resigned for ethical reasons, added a new title to my name-“grandma”, and saw the conclusion of my 8 year federal trial. At times our teeny tiny duplex seemed suffocating. During these times I would visit my daughter and hug that tiny baby who brought so much joy into our family. If she was not home I took a nice ride or did the only other thing I could find to do in this small community-I went to Walmart. Even if I didn’t need anything, it was a place to go to get away.
And so it was, on a hot April day, that I found myself pulling into the Walmart parking lot. On this particular day Dave didn’t feel the suffocation and was happily working on an art project. The truth is, he rarely felt our “home” closing in on him but often joined me in my escape. So, as I searched for a parking place, alone, I was already a willing host to a pity party.
As I pulled around a corner I saw him. I didn’t need to stare to sum up the situation. He sat on the curb with his cart taking up a parking space close to the front door. Next to him sat a beautiful medium size dog that I’m sure my father would have labeled the “Heinz” variety. And standing close by and engaged in conversation was a Walmart employee. I later learned this was the worker assigned to collect carts in the parking area.
As soon as I summed up the situation I heard an inaudible “voice” speaking to my heart. It was a voice I was familiar with. It was a voice that guided my life during the best and worst of times and all the times in between.
The voice “spoke” very clearly and in very simple words-“take that man home.” In the middle of a pity party the last thing you want to do is engage someone in conversation whose life circumstances are far worse than your own. It not only puts a damper on your spirits but ends your “party”. Maybe I didn’t hear right.
The only parking space that was open even remotely close to the door just happened to be in the aisle where the homeless man sat conversing with the cart man. My intention was to slip by unnoticed. My family and friends would say this is out of character for me, but we all have our days. As I was getting out of the car God continued to speak to my heart, “take that man home”. All the way to the front of the store the words kept repeating over and over. When I passed through the first of the double doors to gain entry to the store the voice was so loud that I stopped dead in my tracks. A lady about my age was tailgating me and stopped just short of bumping into me. In a kind voice she asked, “Are you okay” and all I could mutter was “could you please tell me if they have a homeless shelter around here?” I knew the answer. I had lived there long enough to know that there were a few places who fed the homeless but no shelter offered. And since I didn’t want to leave my pity party I thought I could satisfy the voice by offering an alternative solution.
Reluctantly I turned around and headed back outside. I knew I could get the man and dog to my home (thank goodness our backseat is always covered with a blanket for when we take our “fur babies” in the car), but I wasn’t sure how I would transport that cart. It was pretty big for a homeless man to have and I only knew one person with a truck. Unfortunately this person traveled with his job and I wasn’t even sure he was in town. What I did know is this-if God wanted me to take that man home then He would provide a way for me to get that cart there as well.
Making my way to the two men I stood quietly until they stopped their conversation. Addressing the homeless man I said, “If you like I’ll take you to my house. You can use the phone, get a shower, and I’ll cook you a nice meal. I have an extra bedroom and you can get a good night’s sleep. I can take you and the dog in my car but I will have to find a way to transport your cart, and it may take me a little bit.” I was not prepared for his answer or the conversation that followed. In a gentle voice he said, “No thank you.” I was shocked. I didn’t understand why God would ask me to take him home if he didn’t want to go with me. I had left my pity party to reluctantly do a good deed and now that was a bust as well. I don’t remember the exact words but I asked him if I could do anything for him or get him anything in the store. Again, “no thank you.”
What kind of homeless man was this anyway? He did share that he needed a new tire for his cart and when I offered to purchase it he said that it was only $17.00 and he had the money. The Walmart employee was going to watch his cart while he went into the store to purchase the tire. I don’t know what I mumbled to get away but as I walked back through the doors of the store I wasn’t hurrying to get away from someone, I was slowly walking, processing what had just happened, and not understanding it at all.
I listened for the “voice” that would tell me what to do next, but nothing came, so I did what my heart told me to do. I went about making a care package for the truly strange homeless man I had just encountered. When I tell you that this was the first time I had offered someone something in such circumstances and my offer was refused it would not be a lie. Despite the negative images of the homeless that too many people carry I have always found them to be most appreciative of help. Granted, some have mental health issues and are harder to help than others, but this man appeared educated and kind.
I found a collapsible bowl, a dog toy, some packets of dog food, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and some tuna in packets (I was very cognizant of the fact that this man had limited space on his cart and tried to purchase items he could open up, use, and toss the wrapping out). Next to the tuna was an area on the shelf occupied by Vienna Sausages. I had heard of them but had never had a personal experience with them. As I was reading the label a lady came up and started talking to me. She was putting cans and cans of those little things in her cart. She asked me if I liked them and I told her they weren’t for me but the man outside, and for a reason I totally understand now I felt compelled to tell her the story of how the homeless man had refused my help and how I wanted to get him some things for his cart. Her teenage daughter had joined us by then and we talked for a moment or two more as I selected my cans of what looked like tiny little hotdogs. I headed to the checkout with my purchases.
Somehow the circumstances of what brought me to the store that day were lost in the events that were transpiring. I stopped with my bags next to the cart and sat down beside to the man who had already returned from his own tire shopping trip. I explained that I just wanted him to have a few things to help him on his way, and when I asked if I could say a prayer for him he said “yes”. I took his hand and I prayed for his safety and for his dog and for his health and, well, just a “normal” prayer that you would lift up for a homeless man. When I was done I hugged him and he hugged me back and before I could say anything else the lady and her daughter from the Vienna Sausage aisle appeared with a couple of bags of things for him as well. He accepted our items with grace and as he shared his story with us the young girl sat down next to the dog and began checking his skin for ticks and removing those she found. To anyone passing by we must have seemed like an odd congregation of people, but to me, it all seemed so natural.
He began by telling us that he had been living in Ohio when he felt God telling him to sell all of his possessions and go on the road. He didn’t understand why but he did just that. He sold his things, bought a cart, found a dog along the way and traveled from place to place. And he shared God’s love with people who stopped to talk to him. He made money by selling leather wallets, purses and dreamcatchers that he made along the way. It was only then that I noticed the beautiful things he had handcrafted hanging from his cart. He never asked us to purchase anything; he just shared how God provided for his meager needs.
He had come through Newport because he had friends in a town nearby, but I knew that he had come for me. Because at that time in my life I was in a valley, and I needed to stop attending pity parties and start climbing up the mountain that seemed to surround me on all sides. God was right there with me and He wanted me to know I was going to be okay. And he sent a homeless man to bring me comfort. I can tell you that I have hugged and been hugged by a lot of people in my life, but it was the hug from a homeless stranger in a Walmart parking lot (a stranger that I almost passed by) that left a lasting memory of God’s love to this day.
Now, when I hear negative comments about people responding to the voice of God I lift a prayer for them, because they don’t understand. They don’t understand what blessings there are for those who follow the “voice” they hear. And I’m so thankful I did that day!
I hope this Monday Morning Perspective has been a blessing to you and that it put a smile on your face. May God Bless each of you this Christmas Season and may you enjoy your holidays with family and friends.
See you next Monday where I will share how a pumpkin and a poinsettia can change your whole outlook on life.