Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What They Carry

He held a cardboard sign like those we often see. "Homeless. Anything helps."

His long hair was disheveled, his clothes obviously worn. His posture was slumped, that of a man accustomed to defeat. He was stooped from bearing his load. 

The light was red, so I stopped, and I rolled my window down. "Sir?" I said. "I have some crackers."

I passed the food to grateful hands and barely heard as he quietly said, "Thank you." He walked slowly back to his post in the grass, and I left as my light turned green. I drove, away from his pain and towards my provision, and I can't forget the look on his face. 

I wish I knew the color of his eyes. But he never made eye contact with me.

Shame, I suppose, kept his gaze to the ground, and embarrassment prevented his soul from looking at mine. He was begging for help, a hard thing to do, and accepting it was no easy task either.

Hours later, I am haunted by what I took the time to see. 

I rarely stop and roll down my window in these situations. I can blame it on many things, of course - apathy, distrust, not having cash or food to give, fear... But when I don't stop, I don't see. And when I don't see, I can convince myself I don't have to care.

I have no idea what this man's story is. I don't know his name, and I don't know if I'll ever see him again. But he reminded me that every encounter with another person is a chance either to lift their burden or to make it greater. Every encounter is an opportunity to affirm their existence or to deny it.

We envy and judge and criticize and condemn because we don't see what other people carry. We don't know what they've buried in the depths of their hearts. We can't feel the hurt that's ever-present in their lives.

We don't know their past, and we don't know their present. We don't know, so we don't let ourselves care.

This weary man in dirty clothes reminded me that I want to see people. Not just their shells, but the real them inside. Not what they present to the world, but the hidden depths they don't share.

Stepping into another's life is always deliberate, and it's often messy. Understanding their hearts is a process carried out in love. But it all begins with the simple step of choosing to see them. Seeing them and not just their mess.

In the image of God. That's how they were created. Lord, give me eyes to see.

1 comment:

  1. I always think when I see a homeless man or woman this was someone's baby a long time ago...and he or she us still God the Father's beloved child...we are told to help and sometimes that can be food or simply respect and recognition. We are all in this together and I know we have been told to love one I have to remember to act on this in prayer and action.