A few days ago, my daughters and I were passing by a homeless man at an intersection not far from our home in Nashville. He was dirty and unkempt, I am certain from hours standing in the heat on the corner. He also seemed a little off–you know, not quite playing with a full deck… which isn’t all that unusual with homeless people.
We all three watched as people ignored him, shooed him away from their cars. Quite frankly, I was getting ready to do the same. Having worked on “crackhead row” in Chicago (off Cicero and 47th), I had become hardened to so many folks begging at the light–especially when I had experienced one becoming belligerent when I offered him my untouched, just bought lunch. (He wanted money instead.) I was ready to move on like everyone else at the light, when my children intervened.
One of the girls said, “I wish we had some food to give him.” The other said, “Or some money.”
I felt like a complete jerk as I actually looked at the man full on. He had a smile on his face, asking for help in the most unassuming way–not angry, not ashamed, not aggressive, not even downtrodden. Just standing there fully expecting someone to eventually show kindness. Waiting on God to take care of him just like a sparrow. I choked up.
“Quick! Hand me the money in my purse!” I demanded. One of my kids handed me a wad of cash. I had about $14. I started to hand him the singles (I needed to put gas in the car), but dropped them in favor of the ten. When I beckoned him over, he limp-walked to the car almost falling over.
That made me feel like a real asshole.
As I handed him the money, he was careful not to touch my hand. He opened his mouth to say, “Thank you”, but the words would not form–his lips moved, but no sound came. I realized with tears in my eyes that he could not talk. He smiled even bigger, pointed to me, pointed to the sky, and finally pointed at his heart. I understood in my own heart what his vocal chords could not produce: God sent me to help him, and he was grateful.
Even more humbling, we all watched amazed as he went back to the guard rail, knelt down, and began to pray. As the light changed and we made our turn, I glanced at my girls. One still watched him as he faded into the distance; the other wiped tears from her eyes.
“He couldn’t talk, could he?” The youngest asked thoughtfully.
“No,” I croaked, choking back tears. “But that didn’t keep him from praying or saying ‘Thank you’.”
I started off this post in a completely different fashion. In fact, I had no intention of telling this story at all. I had wanted to express to you how awesome of a parent I am, how great my kids are–never trying to get this deep or be that honest in this post. Even still, I think that I did exactly what I had intended to do, which was to express to you:
I am raising exceptional children.
Not because they are smart, funny, kind, polite, well behaved, helpful, confident, and self directed (and they are all that and then some). Nor are they exceptional because of me. I am really just hitting an even groove as a person–let alone as a parent! My failed attempts at guidance still outweigh my successful ones.
No, they are exceptional because they already have the mind of Christ, where compassion is their default status. If everyone lived this way, the world would be a much better place.
I pray that they are always exceptionally connected to othets in compassion and grace.