Last weekend, my wife and I visited the City of Norfolk. It was a very quick trip arriving Saturday afternoon and returning to Franklin County on Sunday just after lunch. After checking out of our hotel Sunday morning, we walked a block to a nearby restaurant to grab a bite to eat before beginning the long drive home. The restaurant was fairly empty. We were seated in a bar area adjacent to a large window overlooking a parking garage directly across the street from us. In an instant, I spotted a man sitting in a chair in a stairwell vestibule of the parking garage. My spirit was stirred immediately.
What was the significance of this man? What am I being called to do?
As the waitress delivered the food to our table, I took my wife’s hand and I prayed a blessing over our food. In my spoken words, I asked God to reveal to me something about the man sitting across the street. I asked that we might be guided in our actions concerning him.
As I ate my meal, I couldn’t shake loose from the idea that I needed to have an encounter with him. Truthfully, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I envisioned that he would belligerently tell me to leave him alone. I didn’t have much to offer him in the way of material things or even money. It was a Sunday, and I did not know of the local resources of where I could even direct him for assistance. There are hundreds more like this man, what is it I am supposed to do?
As we finished our meal, I handed my wife a $20 bill. I instructed her to give it to this man if she was led to do so. We cleared our check with the waitress and headed across the street. We noticed that this man was sitting inside of a fully-enclosed vestibule and protected from the elements. As I opened the door into this space, the man bellowed, “Be sure to close that door. You left it open the last time you came in.” Immediately, I thought, this isn’t going to go well.
We found this elderly man sitting in a wheelchair. He had a couple of boxes of possessions neatly stacked alongside him. He wore a winter coat and a pair of shorts. He had a towel draped over his legs. I thought again, what have I walked into?
I knelt beside him asked him his name. He responded, “John.” I shared that it was my given name also. We connected. My wife and I spent 20 minutes just speaking with this man. He is 72 years old. He doesn’t have any family. His parents and siblings have all passed. We spoke of his current situation and how long he had been homeless. We spoke of his health concerns. We spoke of his plans. As we finished speaking with him, I asked him if my wife and I could pray over him. He said he would like that very much.
I moved around to the other side of John and draped my right arm across his shoulders. I reached out with my left hand and placed it over his hands as my wife began to pray. As soon as my hand came into contact with John’s hands, he began to weep.
As my wife closed the prayer, she handed him the money. He replied, “It isn’t the money that I needed.” God revealed to me in that moment that it was the prayer, the physical contact, our time.
I have no idea what has become of John since our encounter. I don’t suppose I will ever know. I am sure life will continue to be very hard for him. I wish I could have bundled him up and secured housing for him. I wish that there was more I could have done in the moment.
One matters. None of us can help everyone. But each of us can help someone. And that someone can be anyone. For John, simply showing him the love of Christ may have been enough to give him hope for another day.