A couple of weeks ago I was coming home from a meeting and I missed my turn. Frustrated and doing the whole trying to figure out how to get back on the highway going the right way thing I found myself at a stoplight. It was a cold night in Minnesota as many in January are, below zero – with windchill, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a man. This man was standing on the corner, there was a lane between us but no other cars and he was asking for help.
I don’t remember what his sign said, but you can imagine the words with me because like me you have seen men and women with these signs too.
“Homeless, need help”
“Anything helps, Veteran, no work”
“Please help, God bless”
I never have cash and even though I have told myself a thousand times to put extra water bottles and granola bars in my car, I didn’t have any. Then I remembered, I thought I had seen a crumpled up lone dollar bill in my wallet. I reached for it with fumbling fingers, pulling it out and rolling my window down I prepared myself as he walked over.
” I am sorry” I said, ” It is all I have, I wish it was more”.
“Thank you” he said, and this is the part that has stuck with me, that shocks me “It doesn’t cost anyone anything to acknowledge me”
I was in shock. I squeezed his hand as he took my one dollar bill. “You are a human being, you have value.” My voice became stronger with these words. I said something about getting a coffee and some respite from the cold and then the light was turning. As I was driving away his words rang in my ears. It doesn’t cost anyone anything to acknowledge me.
In Isaiah 58:10-11we read;
“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
There are so many reasons to not pour ourselves out for the hungry. So many reasons not to spend ourselves on behalf on the afflicted. So many reasons that moment in the car, that night, to not roll down my window and give a crumpled offering to a man I don’t know.
That is the catch, I don’t know him and I don’t know his story. I don’t know why or how he ended up on that corner in the cold. I don’t know what circumstances in life brought him there. I don’t know if he has family or why he doesn’t have finances. But I do know who created him. I know my Heavenly Father and I know my mission as his daughter. It isn’t to speculate if that man is going to use my offering for good things or bad things. It isn’t to wonder if my one dollar is even worth giving. The mandate is to pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted. My responsibility is simply to be obedient. It is to be Jesus to those who need him. It is to acknowledge a human in a hard place, to give him value, dignity and worth even if only with a word, smile or nod.
There have been many times when I stop at a stoplight, see someone asking for help and I don’t have anything to give or don’t want to deal with their uncomfortable reality. So I avert my eyes and keep driving. But from now on I am going to make an effort to look these human beings in the eyes, because acknowledging them doesn’t cost me anything.
In fact, in God’s backwards economy, the very thing we believe will cost us big is the thing that gives us exactly what we need. Our light will rise, we will be guided by the LORD, our desires SATISFIED, like a well watered garden, we will be like a Spring whose waters do. not. fail.
This is my prayer for us today:
That we will not shy away from pouring ourselves out.
That we will bravely look those in the eye who we may not understand.
That we will give value to those whose stories may seem very different from our own.
And when we do these things we will see our own lives springing forth, our dry spaces becoming like flourishing gardens and that spring whose waters won’t fail, I pray it pours over and out to those who are watching us as we live our lives for what matters.