1.15.2007

A couple of months ago I parked outside a bank waiting to pick someone up there. While I was waiting in this nice heated vehicle in the presence of friends with the music going, I took a quick glance outside the car door window. And right there, in what seemed to be a parallel universe divided from me by a piece of glass, stood a man with his hands cupped out in front of him. I only had to think for a second before I opened my door, and took a minute from my oh-so-busy schedule of sitting and waiting in a car to stand with this man. His name was Eric and he was asking for some change to grab a coffee. I asked him how long he was intending to stay there on the sidewalk for, because I had to take these people back home. He said he could wait, so I asked what kind of coffee he liked, which I fail to remember now, and I promised him that I would be back in about 20 minutes with his coffee and a dutchie doughnut. I later returned to meet with him on the street bench. We had a good long conversation about who knows what. He really didn’t make much sense at all to me, he did do most of the talking, but I didn’t mind. I just sat and listened and watched as he drank his coffee with one hand, smoked a cigarette with the other and grabbed a bite of his doughnut between each.

Today, leaving the comfort of a warm church, I hurried outside into an early snowy afternoon to return to my car, hoping to soon be back to my heated house of entertainment and friendly faces. I wasn’t in much of a mood to make any stops, but as I drive the main street, I always seem to take a second to look at that same bench where I sat with Eric. Often I don’t see him there, but today there he was. Huddled in a closed ball with hands rubbing vigorously together to keep himself warm, as the cold snow found its place sticking to his old articles of clothing and knitted winter toque. I kept driving, suddenly with thoughts racing through my mind. I know I should stop, but I really don’t feel like it today. But I haven’t seen him for a while. I’ll stop next time I see him. But look at how cold he must be. It wouldn’t take much to buy him another coffee. But no, I don’t remember what kind he likes, I don’t want to just get him a doughnut, how will that warm him up. Right as I decided to keep driving and forget about Eric, I tried to distract myself from the dilemma by singing along with the music I had playing in the car. The convicting words seemed to be jumping right from the speakers as if God were saying, ‘Ben, you know you don’t have anywhere to be. There’s no harm in picking up something for Eric. He could use the warmth and company. You know this Ben, be smart.’ The lyrics were from a familiar song by Jars of Clay claimed,

“I’m gonna show you love in every language”

How was I showing Eric love by driving past? How could I sing these words when I just drove by a needing person that I could help? I kept driving, went to the nearest coffee shop, had to take out some money at the ATM, and bought him a hot chocolate and doughnut. I figured the hot chocolate would be the next best thing. Unfortunately, by the time I returned to that bench, Eric was gone. I walked the streets looking for him, then drove around, still not finding him. I became pretty discouraged. Why would God convict me of such a thing, just to leave me wandering around for this guy with a hot chocolate in my hands that was quickly losing its heat? It didn’t make any sense to me. I kept driving a little bit longer, and came across another man. He appeared to be in a similar situation as Eric, and I figured he could probably use a nice hot drink and snack. I quickly parked the car and ran up to him. As I was doing this he was gripping the outside rim of a garbage can and peering into it looking for who knows what. I called out to him and introduced myself. He told me his name was Peter. I replied, ‘Well Peter, I have a nice warm hot chocolate and dutchie doughnut here for you if you want it.’ You should have seen the surprised look on his face. He eagerly accepted the gift and gave me a brief update on how things weren’t going too well at his place with just a few scraps lying around, and how he had gotten into an argument with his landowner earlier. I suggested that we could take a seat on the bench beside us, ironically being the same one I sat on with Eric. He declined the invitation, said his thank you’s and goodbye’s, and he was off.

I just want to make you think. How often do you sit in the warmth of your own comfort while others are right outside your window seeking help, food, clothing, someone to talk with. I can’t say how crazy it was to have Eric talk to me that day almost without a breath for half an hour. I wonder how many people he talks to in a day, how much interaction does he get beside people giving him the cold shoulder as they pass him by? Often, people love to just have someone to talk to, someone to listen to them. I’m definitely not trying to say that I have it all together, there are still people I drive past or try to pretend I don’t notice because I'm just not in the mood to talk with strangers, even though it could mean the world to them. I still surround myself with materialistic valuables; I still work a job to make money so that I can move up. I still think it’s a great deal when a sandwich meal costs under $10 when there are so many people who don’t even live off that in one day. I’m no different than you. We always have to push ourselves to go beyond the human nature of allowing your heart to testify to its true love which is darkness as Donald Miller explains in Blue Like Jazz.

Maybe in my journey to finding Eric, God was trying to teach me something. Often, when we get on these highs of helping others, we look for what we want to find. We want to help people and show the love that God calls us to show, but stay within our comfort levels. Go to where we are familiar; push the envelope a little bit, but not too far. Perhaps, when we open our eyes to everything, without focusing on what we want exactly, God will show us so much more. When we pin-point what we feel God is calling us to, we are limiting Him to what He can do through us. We can’t fit God into a little box, He is everywhere, and everyone needs to see Him. I was looking for Eric specifically, but when I couldn’t find Him, I decided to see the streets as they really were. I saw so many other people who needed help, Eric wasn’t the only one. Your friends at school are not the only ones. Your parents are not the only ones. There are always more people to show love to. Peter taught me this. He is just another one of the many who could use a nice hot chocolate and dutchie every once and a while, and a friendly conversation to remind him that there are people who care.

1 comment:

Lady Westacott said...

Ben,
I love reading your blog. You write beautifully and from the heart.