I have driven this same route multiple times for the last three years. It is the road to my mom’s and I make frequent trips to visit and help her with the challenges of aging. The only thing different about today was that I had a few special passengers tagging along. My daughter-in-law and her three little ones were visiting from out of town and they wanted to see great grandma.
The way involves freeway driving and upon arriving at my exit, I chose the middle lane on the ramp, allowing me to still make a left turn and be in the correct lane that led to my mom’s home. At least that was the reasoning I used. Truthfully, I wanted to avoid contact with him.
It was a rare day he was not there. Holding up his cardboard sign, stating his plight in less than five words, he stood hoping. Hoping for a little thoughtfulness, maybe even a smile or a wave to acknowledge his troubled existence.
Throughout the years, I have given to the needy I’ve seen on street corners, outside a gas station or store. I’ve taken my children to deliver blankets, necessities, water, and food to the destitute in our town. But, I always decide who gets my attention, and who I pass by.
This one looks like he could really use some help. That one probably wants money for drugs or looks young enough to get out there and work.
I had already profiled this man on the corner, and as such, he received nothing from me.
He was scruffy but in his prime. From my estimate, he was young and healthy enough to seek employment instead of standing day after day, begging from others. His rough demeanor solidified my opinion and so I avoided him. This day was no different.
As words in my mind once again justified the choice to avoid eye contact with the stranger, a soft voice sliced into my rationale from the back seat.
“I wish we had something to give that homeless man.”
It was the voice of my seven-year-old granddaughter, free of judgment, full of charity.
Shame filled my entire being as I was snatched from my selfish, proud thoughts and reminded by a child the admonition to “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” When was it that I forgot?
Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. Instead, I shoved the scene into the furthest corner of my mind, hesitant to see myself as I really was.
A few days later I was a passenger in a car with the same occupants, but this time my daughter-in-law was driving. As we exited a different freeway to get gas, my granddaughter sighted another poor soul standing on the corner.
“Mom, do we have a water bottle we can give that man?”
Her mom answered we did, but it would be up to me to hand it to him since he was standing on my side. Anxious to show I had grown from the previous experience, I readily agreed, and pushed the button that rolled down my window. Grasping the water, I handed it to the old man.
“I hope this helps a little,” spilled the words I really meant. As the water bottle slid from my hand to his, I looked into his eyes and for a brief moment, I was permitted to see a noble, valued, son of God. I saw him as God sees him.
My granddaughter’s light rekindled mine that day. Children humbly look to adults for models but how often do we stop and listen to the wisdom of a child? Thank you, Afton, for your example of unconditional love. Without love, we are nothing.