A GUY NAMED CHRIS walked by as I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe in downtown Memphis tonight. He nodded and said “hello” as he passed by. I nodded and said “How’s it going?” It was an offhand comment, more out of habit. I really wasn’t asking. He stopped and said”Truthfully, not too good.” And before I knew it, we were having a conversation. Chris hadn’t eaten since yesterday and had no place to go for the night. Or so he told me. Now, it’s not like I haven’t heard these stories before. I have. Many times. And I’ll admit that I was a little annoyed at the prospect of having my quiet meal interrupted by a panhandler. But I also knew tonight that I couldn’t ignore Chris. It wasn’t like God was telling me “Chris is telling you the truth” even though I believe he was. God seemed to be telling me “It doesn’t matter.” So I called a friend who works at the Memphis Rescue Mission and arranged for a bed for Chris. And since he had missed dinner at the mission, I bought him a meal. Chris had never had Cuban food before. “This food is unbelievable. It’s like something you see on TV” he said. I know he was hungry by the way he ate. And I asked Chris if he knew God. He said he did. We had a nice conversation about that but I didn’t hit him over the head with the Jesus stick. We talked about hopes and ambitions. The restaurant manager came out to make sure this street person wasn’t bothering a customer but I told him everything was fine. And before Chris went off to a clean, $6 bed for the night (yeah, I gave it to him because all this time God seems to be telling me “It doesn’t matter, just do it”) I asked if I could pray with him. And I did, right there, and asked Jesus to watch over him tonight and the next day and the next.
So God, please take good care of Chris tonight. He’s the guy I was telling you about an hour ago. He’s one of your kids and he sure could use a blessing or two in his life. I hope I was able to bring a little of Your light to him tonight. Amen.
Update to A GUY NAMED CHRIS:
I’ve been tossing this around all day. I hadn’t realized it but someone had been watching me talk with Chris. A woman sitting at a nearby table stopped me as I was leaving to tell me she had never seen someone treat a street person the way I just did. “Most people,” she said, “would just ignore him or maybe give him a dollar or something and leave it at that. But to invite him to sit down and actually spend some time talking to him, treating him like a human being with respect, that encouraged me, too. I thought that was a really kind thing to do. I just wanted you to know.” After thinking about what she said, it occurred to me that maybe it was God’s intent all along for her to witness that. Maybe it wasn’t just about Chris. I’m not trying to read too much into this, but we may never know who is watching our actions. Do we always allow God to shine His light through us – even when we may not feel particularly disposed to?