I’m trying to stay focused on this gift (some may say curse) of writing. Not as faithful to it as I should be, so I am trying to develop some “themes” for each day. For this and future Saturdays I will share stories as I find them with you. This particular is from my son, Matthew. After a long career in the military, he is now a Deputy Sheriff with the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. By the way, he was the oldest cadet in his class. He was The 40 Year Old Rookie! His nickname was Old Man. Now, on to HIS story as told by him; a story that makes me proud of him.
A Weary, Homeless Traveler
I came across a homeless gentleman a few nights ago, walking down a dark, mildly desolate spot on Highway 17. I pulled up and I bet he he thought, “Great, another cop harassing me!” I got out of the car and he immediately handed me his only form of identification……..his VA card.
From all I could tell, he wasn’t a wino. He had a long beard, skinny, and frail. But I didn’t smell one iota of alcohol on him, his eyes weren’t blood shot, or any of the other “typical” attributes you see in some of our homeless. I checked his background and the only thing that popped up was a suspended drivers license out of Florida.
I got to talking to him and learned a little bit about him. He served with the famed 82nd Airborne. I served with the 101st Airborne so immediately a little friendly rivalry ensued. I discovered he had been hitchhiking from Cincinnati and was trying to make it to Lafayette, Louisiana. I asked him why there. Did he have family there? He said he had no family left, at least none that he knew of. He did know two people there that he used to paint with and hoped they could help him out with a job. He was a painter at one time I guess.
I told him to get in the car and I would give him a ride. He asked if I could carry him to a Walmart that way he could get inside for a couple of hours. (It was extremely cold this night.) I told him that I wouldn’t do that, I would find him somewhere he could sleep proper for the night.
I tried the local Room at the Inn homeless shelter and they were full. Same with a couple of others or it was past the intake time. But do you know who took him in graciously? The Salvation Army. Even though it was past their standard intake time, they took him in graciously and gave him a bed and food.
As I was leaving him he asked if Highway 72 was a good road to walk on as he made his way west. I told him about the road, local truck stops, and where not to go. He thanked me very graciously. Salvation Army catches a lot of grief over stuff, but in this instance, I can’t say enough good things about them.
What I Discovered
Stories have lessons to discover; these are some lessons Matthew is teaching Dad:
- He took a risk. Law enforcement officers take a risk every time they encounter a person. He was alone and backup wasn’t even close. I’m not saying that homeless people are risky; They Aren’t! But it seems that every day, an officer gets shot or killed. Matthew left the battlefields of the Middle East for a battlefields at home. Do we only seek places to show the love of God that are safe for us, or are we willing to take a risk for Jesus? Jesus took a risk for you on that Cross. It’s time we who align ourselves as Followers Of Jesus to do the same for others.
- He made a connection. Matthew immediately recognized their connection was the military. I’m sure Matthew was right about what this man thought when the blue lights came on. A simple V.A. card was all it took. Combat brothers and sisters share a bond we who have not served cannot comprehend. Finding ways to connect WITH people is the key to opening doors and disarming suspicion. His connection was from this experiences. Our experiences are the doorways to connections with others!
- He met an immediate need. This man needed two things: a way to get out of the cold, and to get further towards his destination. The man only wanted to get to Walmart so that he could have a place to warm up for a couple of hours. But that wasn’t enough for Matthew (another proud Dad moment). He went the second mile, searching for a shelter for his brother in arms. He didn’t give up until he found him warm shelter and a hot meal. What are we doing to meet the immediate needs of people around us? The homeless? The struggling single parent? The addict? That couple on the verge of divorce? The person contemplating a permanent solution to a temporary problem? People in need don’t need our judgment about are they “worthy” of our help. Jesus didn’t consider their “worthiness”, neither should we.
- He offered counsel. Before they parted ways, the homeless veteran, feeling comfortable with him, sought counsel, not advice. And Matthew responded with good counsel. He didn’t give him “advice”; it was good counsel; the places to avoid as well as places that were safe. It seems to me that while most of us are good at giving advice, we are poor in giving good counsel. Good Counsel comes out of a heart that cares; a heart that seeks wisdom, a heart that bears the scars of day-to-day life. Wise Counsel doesn’t come naturally. It comes out of the desire for us to seek wisdom! If you find yourself today tempted to give advice, fight that temptation. Instead seek wisdom, the wisdom from Above.
If you think I’m bragging about my son. . .YOU’RE RIGHT! When I see Jesus in him, I just want to keep on encouraging him. When you see Jesus in action in others. . .do the same!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!