|Photo by Maggie Smith|
I met a new person at church on Sunday. His name was Russell and unlike most people hanging out after service, he showed up after service let out.
He was tall, slender and had warm, light-brown eyes. He was tired and he was hungry. He didn't walk onto campus as a result of an invite card, a personal invitation, seeing a post on facebook or seeing a sign. He'd heard there was food.
He said that he hadn't eaten a good meal in two days. I believed him. He said he'd spent most of the previous night walking and had fallen asleep behind a trash enclosure at 3am. I believed him. He said that he was from Louisiana where he'd left behind parents and a brother to come to California for work. I believed him. He said that he'd spent time in Bakersfield trying to find work and instead found himself on the streets. He said he'd never been homeless before and I believed him.
I found myself desiring to help him, but lacking in resources. I gave him what I had - 3 bananas. I listened as he told me some of his story. I recommended Poverello and Fresno Rescue Mission, but he was discouraged by the drug use, alcohol abuse and prostitution in the downtown area. Finally, I explained that Lifebridge down the street from us was possibly giving out groceries and eventually he headed off down the street.
Before he left, I invited him back for Christmas service and asked if there was a place where we could find him during the week, but his life has nothing stationary and promises cannot be made. Such a kind man; in his fifties, clean shaved, hair combed, clothes cared for and polite; yet, he is found downtrodden and at his breaking point.
I don't know if I will ever see Russell again, though I hope I do. Our chance encounter was but a reminder that I need to be prepared at all times to meet a need. Bananas were nice, but money for a hot meal would have been nicer; my conversation was pleasant, but I imagine that the opportunity to sleep in a bed in a heated room after a nice hot shower would have been more so.
It makes me think of the "good Samaritan", he was able to take the beaten and broken man to a place where he would have some time to heal. What a blessing I could have been had I been prepared to take this man to a hotel to spend some time considering the goodness of God from on top of a fluffy bed under a warm comforter. Instead, he most likely slept in the freezing cold of a Valley winter night. Opportunity missed.