I met a man the other day. He was dirty, “bone dry weary” and thirsty. I was driving and listening to Elvis Presley sing “How Great Thou Art” and I missed my turn on 17th street, so I went on down to the next road and turned right off Canton Pike. The man was sitting on the side of the street, with his head resting on his knee and his arms crossed over the top of his head. At first, I thought he may have been hurt in some way, but to be honest, my first real thought was “Is it safe to stop and talk to him?” As quick as that thought popped into my head, the next thought was “STOP the car, Sherry, and check on him!” I STOPPED the car. Getting out of the car did not mean I rushed over to the man. I stood beside my car and said, “Are you okay?” He unfolded his crossed arms from the top of his head and turned his head slightly and just stared at me. Goodness, did I feel uncomfortable at that stare. I asked him again, “Are you okay?” He never blinked an eye but a raspy voice said, “bone dry weary, sista.” I stood there looking at him and the little voice in my head said, “get him something to drink.” I carry water in my car so I got a bottle and walked over to what I considered a safe distance and sat the water down close enough for him to easily reach for it, which he quickly did. He opened and drank the whole bottle in almost one gulp. I had moved back to stand beside my car all the time watching him drink that water. He looked up and said “thank you, sista.” I asked him if he wanted another water and some crackers I had in my car and he said “please sista.” I retrieved those items and walked toward him again and he said, “don’t be afraid of me, sista, I won’t do you no harm.”
Wow, my soul flooded with shame.
I stopped walking and just looked at him. My heart told me I could trust this man so I walked on and stood beside him and handed him the water and crackers. “What’s your name,” I asked him, “and do you live in this neighborhood?”
“Just passing through, sista” he told me. “So what’s your story,” I asked him, “why are you sitting here and can I help you in other ways.”
“You already have, sista,” he said, “you stopped and that’s more than them cars have done this day.” He began to talk, broken pieces of sentences that I had to piece together.
His story was heartbreaking.
He was a former Marine, lost from his family, wandering the streets of whatever city he was traveling through, recently from Nashville, heading to Louisville, broke, thirsty, hungry, and “bone dry weary.”
Where are the stupid Kleenexes when I need them!!
Trying desperately to keep my composure because VETS really pull my heartstrings, I asked him if I could go get some food right down Canton Pike for him and give him a little money. He agreed to the food but not the money. He would not get in my car with me. He waited by the street while I went and got him some Chinese food to eat. We talked a little more while he ate. I told him about the Salvation Army shelter, no to that. I told him about the Challenge House and a shower he could use. No to that. I told him about Buddy and Wally and help to be had, no to that. He finished his meal, rose slowly to his feet, thanked me graciously, and said, “sista, I gotta move on from here. I remember your kindness.” He shook my hand, and shuffled on towards Canton Pike. I felt so many emotions in that moment; frustration because he would not let me help him more, sadness at his circumstances, and overwhelming gladness that I had STOPPED my car.
The thing is though, I almost did not STOP my car.
WHAT A BLESSING I WOULD HAVE MISSED.
God, thank you for bringing me to Challenge House 7. Thank you for the circumstances you place me in every day. May my smallness of actions always illuminate your GREATNESS OF LOVE AND COMPASSION, YOUR AGAPE MERCY AND GRACE.
I get “bone dry weary”, Lord, but YOU ALWAYS REFINE AND REFILL THIS CRACKED VESSEL named Sherry.
Bless every man and woman and child sitting on the side of a street today needing YOUR mercy and grace. Bless every soul that tries to help in even the smallest of ways.
PRAISE YOUR HOLY, HOLY NAME!!!!!
AMEN AND AMEN.
Travel on with Many, Many Prayers, Vincent J……I will remember you.