It was within the first week of moving. I still had out all my feelers about everything, always wondering if I was in a safe place or not. I had to run out to the library to do some emailing/business meeting kind of thing, and they closed. I started heading out for Barnes and Noble, so I could finish up my work. It was getting dark-ish and the vehicle was running on empty. Uh-oh.
I pulled into the closest gas station even though I probably wouldn’t have chosen the area if I would have been sure of having enough gas to get me somewhere else. Breathing prayers for safety, I jumped out of the vehicle. An older guy hoping to make a buck was hanging out at the gas station and offering to pump gas. “I’ll get that for you ma’am.”
“No, I’m fine,” I replied.
“I’ll put the gas in your car and you can stay sitting.”
He walked right up to me, close enough that he was invading my personal space and said, “Here, I’ll do it.”
“No, I’ve got it,” I said firmly.
He stood there for a second, mubled, “Okay,” and walked over a few yards.
I was keeping my eye on him when a super-large lady rode up on a motorized wheelchair. “Could you give me a little money, please?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Please, Miss, I just need a few dollars.”
“No, I’m not going to give money, but is there something else I can help you with?”
“I need a little money…so I can….run up to the grocery store to get…some food for my nine-year old daughter…she’s sick.” It was very obvious she was making up the tale as she was talking, but I decided to show her a little love.
“Well, I can get some food for you. What do you need?”
“Oh, but I just need some money.”
“No,” using my firm mama voice again, “I’ll go into the gas station and buy you some food if you really need it.”
Realizing there wasn’t going to be cash, she tried to make the best of it. “Oh, I want a bag of Doritos and a can of Vienna Sausages and a Big Red soda.”
“Okay, well I don’t know if I’ll get you all of that, but I’ll get you something.”
I had parked pretty far from the gas station and I wasn’t about to leave the computer in the vehicle way out there, so, not realizing that it would appear as though I was driving off, I started climbing in to move the vehicle to the front of the station.
Suddenly her pitiful tones changed to a commanding yell, “Git Back HERE, GIRL!”
“Whatever,” I thought to myself and eased up to the store.
Inside I looked around for something remotely healthy, but there was nothing in this tiny joint. I grabbed a can of Vienna Sausages–definitely the first time I’d bought them–and headed for the checkout. I was a little nervous because the guy who had wanted to pump my gas and another loiterer were hanging out next to my vehicle. I waited in line as one person bought a pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket. The next teenage-looking customer bought a beer. While he was waiting, another guy came in and he and the cashier did some super-fast hand transaction with only a glance and not a word exchanged. After I’d made my purchase, I was thankful to find everything in tact outside.
I drove out to the road where my lady was waiting, hoping for more sympathy. She was parked on the right side of my vehicle, and feeling insecure and all, I didn’t feel like getting out of it again. I showed her the can of sausages and gestured for her to come over and get it. She gestured back that she couldn’t because of her wheelchair. Feeling a little peeved that she was probably lying again, I quickly jumped out and ran the can over to her. “Oh, thank you so much!!!! You are just the sweetest thing. Thank you. Thank you.”
I said a few sweet things in return and jumped back into my vehicle to go. But before I could change gears, her wheelchair suddenly worked fine and I waited as she slowly moved in front of me to leave the gas station first.
My brain was doing some spinning.
Later that night a guy scowled into my window when I declined opening it to give him a handout.
The next day I made a quick stop at Family Dollar a few blocks from our house. There was a homeless guy sitting outside. “If you have any spare change when you come out, I’d appreciate it.”
I didn’t want to give him change. Most often we choose not to give money, but we do help when we can. It was a very hot day, so I bought him a cold drink. I came out and handed it to him sure he would be so happy for a refreshment. Instead he stared at it, slowly reached for it and not at all masking the disappointment asked, “You don’t have any change?”
Really? You’re not thankful for a drink? So I don’t want to judge motives, but I now I questioned why he did want money. Was a drink showing him the love of Jesus if he didn’t want it? I do think it was. I think love is measured not on how it’s received, but how it’s given. At the same time, I have lots of questions.
A few days later while stopped at a traffic light I watched a man receive a sandwich then hide it, so he could ask another passer-by for more.
There are people with good motives and genuine needs. So much of homelessness is related to substance abuse. Sometimes people really want deliverance, sometimes they don’t. I really wonder what Jesus would want us to do. The change that is asked for on street corners across America is paltry compared to the change Jesus wants to give.
I think sometimes Jesus would reach out His hand to bless. He would ease a pain or eradicate an addiction. I think sometimes He would say, “Turn away from your sin and come follow me.” We don’t have the advantage Jesus has of seeing hearts. Still I wonder if there aren’t times when a call to righteousness would be better than a cold drink. I don’t know. I only wonder.