With my head bent down and eyes fixed to the sidewalk I made my way past him and walked into the restaurant. My order was ready. I made some small talk with the guy ringing up my order but the whole time my mind was on the shadowy figure standing outside the store. "Will he still be there when I walk out? Should I walk around a different direction to my car? Is he waiting to pounce on me while my arms are loaded down with pizzas?" Honestly, all of those thoughts went through my mind.
I walked out the front door behind a young couple. I saw them glance sideways at the man who was still standing there. They made an obvious detour to their car so as not to walk near him. I did the same thing. I opened my car door and placed my four large pizzas on the front passenger seat. I slid in behind the wheel, being very careful not to look up and accidentally make eye contact with the man who was no more than 5 feet from me. I put the key in the ignition and then... I paused. I was stricken with an overwhelming feeling of shame. I glanced through the front windshield of my car at the man. He was still standing there holding the little sign in his hands. I squinted to make out the words, "Need Help."
I opened my car door, got back out and walked toward the man, he had a tear in his eye and a look of total helplessness. As I studied his face my mind raced to a series of testimonies that I had recently heard from a group of men and their pastor, Greg Locke, at Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, TN. They have a ministry called "The Homeless Experience" that they do where they go out and live among the homeless in Nashville for several nights. The one thing I kept remembering was how nearly every one of them said that people would not look at them or make eye contact and that was the thing that was the worst. It gave them a feeling that they were worthless.
As I stood there only inches from the man, I noticed he had long dirty looking hair and a large bushy unkempt beard. He looked as if he hadn't showered, shaved, or had a haircut in years. I asked him what he needed. "A pair of pants, maybe a shirt, a backpack, and something to eat," was his very polite response. "Do you like pizza?" I asked. "Yes" he said. I walked to my car reached inside and pulled the top box of steaming hot pizza off the stack. I handed it to the man. He said "thank you, this will help." Then he told me he was trying to get to Kentucky and he was planning on walking up to the Walmart which is behind the Pizza Hut to see if he could possibly get some clothes. I didn't have any cash on me or I would have gave him some. I told him I would be praying for him and he thanked me, walked inside the Pizza Hut, found a table and sat down to eat the pizza. I got back in my car and headed home.
As I drove the short 2-miles to my house with tears streaming down my face, my heart ached for that poor man. I was also ashamed to think that I almost drove away without acknowledging another human being in need. It is only by the Grace of God that I am not in that man's shoes. I don't know why he was homeless and I knew absolutely nothing about him. For all I know he tells the same story every day to anyone that happens by. But, even if he does or if he doesn't it does not change the fact that he is another human being. He is someone that was created in the image and likeness of God. And like Jesus said in Mark 12:31: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." May God have mercy on our souls and may we forever be reminded to love others.
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. - Mark 12:28-34 KJV