“Paul” is not homeless. He is just an old man. Does he have anyone that looks after him?
I imagine he lives alone. I have seen him a few times from the window of this coffee shop where I work on my laptop. The first time I saw him, he was digging in the trash can. I remember thinking, “That’s odd,” as the picture just didn’t add up. “He must have lost something and is looking for it.”
I saw him again today. Clean shaven. His clothes, though worn, appear to be in good condition and matching. I imagine that he has a morning routine: he gets out of bed, prepares himself for the day, surveys the house that he paid off some years back, glances at an old photo of his wife, now passed on, and heads out for his morning walk. Except, in his case, his morning walk includes looking for food. Maybe I am wrong.
He reached his arm through the small side opening in the trashcan, pulling out wadded up bags and shaking them for content. I was perplexed and mesmerized. I was momentarily distracted by a phone call, and when I hung up, “Paul” was making his last trashcan check on the far side of the parking lot.
As I was still analyzing what all this meant, God spoke into my heart and told me to get him some food. And, as I often do, I just sat there, analyzing whether I really should get him food, whether or not there was time for something warm to be cooked, etcetera, etcetera. Stalling. The voice kept nudging me, and it wasn’t until he started shuffling out of the shopping center that I obeyed. What takes me so long to accept God’s invitations? I should know better by now.
By time I caught up with him he was into the next shopping center. I asked him if he wanted the blueberry muffin that I held in a bag, and he enthusiastically accepted. He had laughter in his voice and exclaimed, “I’m going to eat it right now!” His reply sounded funny to me, and intuitively appropriate at the same time. I can’t remember my reply. We exchanged names-I assume that I will see him again.
It was a surreal experience. The point of this story, quite emphatically, is not about my eventual obedience. The point of it is that I still find myself analyzing people and situations, even after God calls me to action. Why do I do this? Am I assessing the merit of the endeavor? The worthiness of the individual? The amount of courage within?
If I am to be completely honest with myself, I think I analyze all these things in light of one concern:
I don’t want to look stupid.
I think I was more concerned with how “Paul” might react than with his actual well-being. What if he was hostile? What if I embarrassed him? What if he was trying to go unnoticed in order to save face? I pay enough attention to the racket in my head that I almost miss out on God’s invitations.
I have so much to learn. And still, as I write this, I am wondering what my next interaction with “Paul” will be like.