This morning, I was sitting at home thinking about life. Sounds like a thrilling Saturday, doesn’t it? More specifically, I was thinking about purpose – mainly my purpose, and how I help make a change in the world. I watched a video about a homeless man who was able to change the world around, literally a few cents at a time. As I watched that video, I began to ask God, “Help me to find opportunities like this to help others and to continue to seek purpose.”
Shortly after this I decided to go for a drive, navigating some of my favorite country roads in Cumberland and York Counties. Driving is my “thinking time” and honestly I haven’t gone for drive that allowed me to think in quite awhile. It was a peaceful journey through the pastoral countryside of South Central Pennsylvania. It was warm enough to let the windows down a bit and so I enjoyed the gentle breeze flowing into the car. During this time, I prayed and processed. I thought about some life decisions I am working through at this time, while thinking about my childhood, my spiritual journey, and some of the things I expected from my life along the way. I came to realizations that I was already aware of: I am introvert, I love the country more than I thought I did, I strive for simplicity in life, and I enjoy having time to think. All of this processing made me fairly hungry. So I decided to get some lunch. As I got closer to the restaurant, I realized I needed to stop at the ATM to get some cash. Before I pulled into the bank, I looked in my wallet to find $2 – which assured me that I needed to get cash. Seconds after I opened my wallet, I saw a homeless man with a sign standing on the median. In the seconds that I had before I approaching him, I wrestled between “Do I stop and give him some money or do I try to beat the yellow light and not be bothered by him?” At the last moment, I slammed on the brakes. It was awkward – I was sitting right next to him and I knew I had to do something. It wasn’t awkward because he was standing next to me, but rather because what I had prayed about earlier that day. I had an opportunity to help this man.
Now, I know, I know… giving money to homeless people is not the best practice for helping them develop sustainable income sources – aka a job. However, I have come to a place where I have realized I can’t help every homeless person find a job and turn their life around. I need to try to build a relationship when I can and when I can’t, I still feel convicted to help them financially, if I am able. Most of the time, I can do that. They might use that money to buy drugs and alcohol. However, they might use that money to buy themselves dinner and dinner for a friend at the homeless shelter. Or a cup of coffee for stranger. The list can go on. Some people assume that homeless people are all alcoholics and drug-addicts. While it true that some homeless people fit that stereotype, the reality is that “normal” people are susceptible to those same addictions.
This man was incredibly thankful for my help. Actually, he appeared more genuine in his thankfulness than any other homeless person I have encountered. Whether he was genuinely thankful or not, I was really touched by his response. It reminded of how thankful I should be for the things that God has given me. This man appeared to be incredibly thankful when he didn’t have much. In fact, he said he was so thankful for such a beautiful day. And yet, when I do have more physical possessions than him, I seem to be far less thankful for what I have.
Over the past week, I have been thinking about what it meant the disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus. It occurred to me that giving everything up, meant literally giving everything up. But some others gave up everything, and still had things, such as Levi and his house. The difference was that Levi’s house was now being used for God’s purposes. So I have begun to think maybe giving up everything to follow Jesus isn’t just about giving away our possessions, but realizing that they don’t belong to us. My stuff isn’t my stuff. My money isn’t my money. My skills aren’t my skills. All of that belongs to God and he entrusts us with those things. For me, giving up everything looks like giving up my entitlement to my stuff. I live in a big world, with a lot of people. I need to remember to think outside of myself. When I can do that, my world becomes a little smaller.
Today, I feel like God answered my prayer (he always does, sometimes I’m just not listening). I prayed: “Help me to find opportunities like this to help others and to continue to seek purpose.” And so I had an opportunity to help someone else and more importantly it was through that experience that I have grown in my understanding that my possessions are not mine. When you ask for an answer you might be surprise when you get one.