Hello friends. As promised, here is the story I mentioned on today’s radio show. It is a story that has made its way around the globe. Why? Because we all desire wholeness in our lives and I think all of us can see a piece of ourselves in these events. After sharing my experience I was asked to write my story out so it could be shared with friends and family. I hope it makes its way into the right places.
The story is simply about a day in my life. A day that I know will stay with me forever. Allow me to begin. I was at the supermarket doing my weekly shop. Normally I am a very interactive shopper. I like to know what’s going on around me and I truly enjoy the supermarket experience (yes … I go down every aisle ~ except the kitty litter and doggie treats ~ even if I don’t need what’s on offer there. I guess I just like to have a ‘look see’). This day was different for me. I was focused on the job at hand. Friends were coming over for dinner so I was shopping with my recipe book. I couldn’t miss a thing so my attention was on my shopping trolley rather than on my fellow shoppers.
At the checkout, I placed my groceries on the sliding countertop and watched the screen as the cashier scanned each item. I felt satisfied I had found almost everything I needed (except the madras curry paste ~ I was making an Indian feast that night). I stood patiently, waiting for my transaction to end, all the while smiling politely to the disabled man doing his best to pack my groceries. During this time, someone had joined my line. I turned to discover it was a homeless man in his late 30s or early 40s with matted hair, dirty clothes and a horrible stench. He placed his groceries on the sliding countertop. I can’t remember exactly what he was buying but I do recall it surprised me. I guesstimated his groceries would cost around $10.Standing there, I felt a voice within me say, "Pay for his groceries".
I know those of you reading this are familiar with that voice because we all hear it. Call it your conscience, call it the Universe ~ I call it God. I immediately began a debate in my head that went something like this: "What if he gets offended? What if he freaks out on me? How embarrassing, what if, what if." I argued with myself for so long that others had joined the line. Again I heard the voice say, "Will you not humble yourself to do something that will change a life? Have you not asked to be my hands and feet? Pay for his groceries."
Being stubborn, I attempted to ignore my instincts, but I was becoming visibly more uncomfortable ~ getting hot and shifting from side to side. The kind cashier finally finished and said, "Thank you Miss, you have saved $16.00 today." Those savings were thanks to my supermarket club card, but standing there it occurred to me that my savings were greater than the homeless man’s whole grocery bill. My heart sank. I had missed the moment. Offering to pay for his groceries now would be awkward as I couldn't add it onto my bill. I would have to stand and wait and there would be an uncomfortable silence ... the excuses stacked up and I convinced myself.
I wheeled my well-packed trolley to the exit and left with a horrible sense of sadness. The sadness of walking away from a missed opportunity. Suddenly, I heard a well-spoken man calling out after me. “Excuse me Miss, excuse me Miss”. I turned around expecting the friendly cashier but found the homeless man with the matted hair and dirty clothes. Handing me my supermarket club card, he explained I had dropped it and he wanted to make sure I got it back. You can imagine the looks from the other shoppers watching a homeless man chasing me down in the shop.
At that moment, I heard the voice again say, “Here’s another chance.” I ignored it and stood at the entrance saddened by my weakness. The well-spoken homeless man returned to the cashier to complete his transaction. I stood riveted to the spot ~ scared but desperate to BE in that moment. I hoped the man would take the same exit as me and silently prayed for a third chance to make a difference in one person’s life. I prayed that I would forget me and live beyond myself at that very moment.
Before I knew it, the homeless man was behind me ~ he had chosen the same exit! He said, “I hope you don’t mind that I chased after you with your card." I looked at him and said, "No. Thank you so much." I paused and then asked, “How is your day going?” He locked eyes with me and replied, “Not very good, it’s hard being homeless.”
The conversation continued as we walked to the car park. “You took a risk in there running after me to give my card back and now it’s my turn to take a risk with you,” I said. “When we were standing in line I believe God spoke to me and told me to pay for your groceries. I ignored him because I was scared.” His eyes remained locked on mine and he told me, “Everyday I ask God for direction, I wasn’t always homeless you know. I used to live in a nice area, I grew up there (a very good area, one that I hope to move into with my family soon) and I had a good job. Things just went wrong, but I know I won’t always be homeless.”
Then I said, “You’re in this patch right now but God wants you to know that this isn’t how your life will end, that there is more and this isn’t forever.” He replied, “It’s Angels like you that give me hope and today I needed hope, I just spent my last dollars on those groceries.” I asked him if I could give him some money and he replied, “If you would like to. I want you to know that I’m homeless but I don’t do drugs, a lot of homeless people do but I’m just not one of those.” I believed him about the drugs, but you know even if that isn’t the truth God is in control and He orchestrated the entire encounter.
I asked him his name and introduced myself to him. I told him I would pray for him, that I knew God was going to do something great in his life and that he needed to hold onto hope and have faith. He extended his hand to shake mine and in my head I was thinking, “Oh no, I don’t want to shake.” Again I heard the voice say, “Shake his hand well, place value on him.” I extended my hand and said, “God bless you.” He said the same and we parted ways.
I made my way to my car and instantly began praying for him. I almost buckled over in tears; I felt such a huge burden for him. I don’t know how his life will change but I know through God’s creativity this homeless man’s life can become what it was meant to be.
Today I walked away from an opportunity to make a difference but I believe I was given a second and a third chance and I chose to simply do what was right. I ended up giving him all that was in my wallet ~ not a lot to most of us but a fortune to him. Who knows what will happen in his life. All I know is that I’ve asked to be God’s hands and feet on this earth, and today I had the opportunity to speak into a hurting life. I realize now more than ever that on either side of our obedience there are people who will be affected forever.
My friends can attest to the fact that I always say EVERYONE HAS A STORY. I learned that from a great man ... my dad. I believe that as we walk through life it is our responsibility to pull back the layers of the story and discover the gold that is within each one of us. Try to look beyond what you see. There is a why behind every what.
Thank you for reading this simple story. I ask today that you say a prayer for this homeless man, my friend whose name is Sean.