In our town, McDonald’s is right beside Wal-Mart and the traffic situation in that area if very similar to every Goofy road rage cartoon. No matter how clear the roads are coming in, it is always a pain to get out of there. Anyway, with the traffic as bad as it is, that area is a very popular place for individuals to ask for assistance. It is very common to see folks holding signs asking for money, food, and gasoline.
A few weeks ago, my family and I were headed to McDonald’s. There was a man on the corner holding a sign that said “Homeless and Hungry.” My wife and I decided to buy the man a meal and take our son over to give it to him to teach him a lesson about giving. Let me be clear that I am not telling this story to brag on how generous we are. Actually, that was the first time we have done anything like that in far too long.
Anyway, we went in and got a few items in a to-go bag. My son and I started across the parking lot as I thought about what to say. I was quickly distracted by the church van in the parking lot, very near where the man stood. There were several teenagers on board, and it was from a church that was definitely out of town, so I assumed they were on a youth trip. In my mind I thought, “if somebody from that group does not offer the man help, what will his perception of Christians be?” I started running scenarios in my mind of how he must feel being ignored by hundreds of people driving by, and then finally by a group of people that claim to love everyone and are supposed to help out those in need. I went through the gamut of sad, angry, and disappointed all in about ten steps.
When I got near the corner, however, what I saw almost brought me to tears. There was literally a line of people waiting to offer help to this person in need. A man and woman from the church bus were hugging him and praying with him, and handed him what appeared to be a gift card as they walked away. Cars were literally holding up traffic waiting for him to finish talking to the church couple so they could give him money and spare change. I stood there with my son, gladly waiting our turn. We handed him the food, said “God bless you,” and walked away so the next person in line could give their gift.
While I had hoped my son would learn a lesson about giving in the process of helping this man, as I walked away there was no doubt that I had learned the greater lesson. As I stood in that line, I saw several people go out of their way to help somebody in need. I saw the love of Christ manifested in a way that I had never noticed before. Sure, I see cars stop and give spare change to folks asking for help all the time. But seeing people pray with the man and hold up traffic to offer him money, and to have to literally wait in a line to offer my gift, I was both humbled and encouraged in a way that I never expected when I walked across that parking lot.
We often think that all hope is lost in our communities. We believe that our churches, our organizations, and our families are the only ones out there trying to be the body of Christ. I found out, in a very unexpected way, that His work is being done all around me. There is hope in my community.
How have you seen God’s work being done in your community lately?