Monday, June 7, 2010

FAIL'd... But Lesson Learned

 “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”  --Deuteronomy 15:11

Have you ever thought you’d learned something through reading or hearing, but when put to the test, you weren’t ready and wished God would give you another chance?  While in the area for a friend’s wedding, my family and I took a trip into Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and possibly a museum or two.  We were ill-prepared in more ways than one.  Using our GPS, we tried to locate a parking garage close by, but we ended up parking ten blocks away.  Since it was such a beautiful day and we wanted to take some pictures of the amazing architecture we’d passed, we decided to walk.  Although ten city blocks was a greater distance than we’d anticipated in the hot blazing sun, I’m really glad we walked, because I learned a valuable lesson that day.

I had just finished the two books about homelessness by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that we might see homeless people on the streets of downtown Philadelphia.  Having been to Boston several times, despite seeing street musicians playing for money, I don’t remember seeing homeless people nor experiencing the pungent smells of urine and filth.  As we walked around the gorgeous City Hall building in Centre Square, I noticed a man several yards away sleeping atop cardboard on one of the benches under the shade of some trees.  We came to the corner of the building and saw a very thin, ragged-looking woman with hollow eyes sitting on some steps.  I wondered if she was homeless and wanted to give her some money or ask if she needed anything, but I didn’t quite know how to go about it, so we just passed by.  At the back of the building heading toward Market Street sat an older black woman asking for a match.  We apologized for not having a match to give her.  I wondered if I could perhaps buy some matches for her, but since I was with my family and didn’t know where to purchase any, I didn’t say anything.  As we kept walking, a young, strong-looking black man had just shoved a lighter into his pocket after lighting his cigarette.  I wanted to stop and ask him if he could offer the woman a light, but I was out of my element, and I was sure she’d ask him anyway when he passed by.  I turned to look and wish I’d turned sooner, prepared to capture the moment with my camera, but it blessed me to see a young man being kind to an old woman.

As we walked down Market Street, I saw another thin man sleeping on a covered bus bench with a shirt over his face, a young man sitting on the sidewalk against a brick wall with an open suitcase and a cardboard sign, and an overweight woman asking passersby to buy her something to eat.  We walked a little further, and I finally stopped, took out my wallet and shoved a bill into my pocket to be easily accessible.  “What is that for?” my daughter asked.

“For a homeless person,” I replied.

As we drew closer to Independence Park, we didn’t seem to encounter another homeless person.  After seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, we decided to utilize the transportation system so that we might have more time to visit a museum or the zoo.  But first, we stopped at a nearby Dairy Queen to use their facilities and get something cold to drink.  As we sat for a moment and I drank my ice cold raspberry lemonade, I thought about the homeless who must be hot and thirsty, so I bought a bottled water to go along with the money I had shoved in my pocket.  I prayed God would give me another chance... but... He didn’t.  As we walked the block toward a shuttle bus stop, I purposefully looked for a homeless person to bless.  I wish I had asked my family if we could have kept walking, but I thought surely, we could ride the bus to City Hall and encounter someone there.  We didn’t.  Why, I wondered, wasn’t God giving me another chance?

Remember the young man with the open suitcase?  I had wanted to take his picture, as well as others, and capture the plight of the homeless, but I also try to consider a person’s privacy and dignity.  I could’ve asked for permission or simply taken a picture of his suitcase and cardboard sign.  Did you wonder what the sign said?  It said something like, “Today is my 22nd birthday, and I have nothing...”  Despite what I thought I’d learned from Denver Moore’s admonition to not judge a person, I had judged the young man.  Although my heart went out to him, I had judged his sign to be merely a way of tugging at heartstrings to gain more sympathy and money.  Maybe it really was his 22nd birthday, but even if it wasn’t, he was obviously in some kind of need... and he was someone’s son.  If God had allowed me to give that bottle of water and money to someone else, it’s likely I would’ve felt good about myself and neglected to reflect on my failure to try to get to know a person, ask his name, and show the unconditional love of Christ.  I failed, but I truly hope the lesson was learned.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome and so true. We often forget the blessing that deeper thought and reflection will bring. Thanks so much for sharing your heart!! xoxo- Kris