“Hey, do you have a minute? I’m stuck on a phone call, and there’s this homeless guy downstairs that needs help.”
I wanted to say that no, I was too busy. But this being the ministry, and the ministry being my life (to a certain extent), I sighed and said yes. Without realizing it, I had just committed the next two hours of my day, a day which needed to be filled by other activities, such as important paperwork and phone calls.
But I went downstairs. Frank was sitting there next to the phone, waiting for someone to help him. He had a handful of note cards on which he’d written phone numbers. Since he is going blind, he needs someone to dial the numbers for him, and to look up new numbers. First order was to try to find a criminal lawyer who could help him with his overdue tickets, both for parking and panhandling. He’d missed one of his court dates already, and was wondering if a lawyer could help him. The second thing he was looking for was a lawsuit lawyer. He had tripped on some steps in front of McDonald’s, and was wondering if he had a case. Then we tried finding a shelter/food pantry where he could go to get some new clothes, since he needed to replace the ones on his back.
“I used to joke about what I’d give up just to get my eyesight back, but now I really mean it; I would give up both my arms, just to be able to see again.”
I sat close by, dialing the phone as he needed it, hearing each secretary refer him to someone else. His body odor overwhelmed me, and although it was not extremely unpleasant, it was definitely hard to ignore. At each rejection or recorded message, the receiver would come down as he rubbed his fully bearded face. “Relief is coming soon. I just need to get some nicotine in me.”
I have no idea what it’s like to not have a home. Oh, sure, I’ve been displaced plenty of times as a missionary kid; it comes with the territory. But to not have a place to go take a nap? Or to keep my belongings? Or to find refuge from inclement weather?
As Frank left, muttering something about nicotine and a nap in the park, I was glad to see him go, so that I could return to my “normal” life and schedule. But I’m also thankful for that brief interruption to my day. I’m never meant to live in my circle of comfort, cut off from the rest of the world. Glimpses like this make me realize that my life is not my own, and my plans for each day should be more conformed to God’s agenda.
Thank you, Frank.