We had stopped serving plates of food to the homeless seated at our tables, many were leaving, and we began taking down our tables, after three hours on the sun-baked asphalt parking lot. We were ready to pack up and leave for air-conditioned cars and homes.
I was closing up on stage, reminding our homeless guests to pick up their sack lunches and iced bottled water on their way out the gate.
A wild-eyed homeless man staggered to the stage, yelling loudly, “Help me, I need food.” He said he was going to pass out and had not eaten for days. “Help me, help me, I have to have something to eat and drink,” he exclaimed, swaying as if he could not make another step without food. I could see he was “overly medicated” and that he was a mess, physically and mentally.
I nodded at a member of our group and she told him to “sit down right there at the table, and we will bring you a plate.” When he stared at her blankly, she again pointed to the table and told him to sit down. He focused on her and barked not to tell him what to do but immediately looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry.” He sat compliantly.
We brought him a nice hot plate of food. He stared at it, looked around the table and said incredulously, “Ain’t you got no salt and pepper? I don’t think I can eat this without salt and pepper!” But he did.
The tables and 120 chairs were cleaned and packed away for travel, and he was still eating. I told our volunteers this homeless man example is why we must have a time to quit serving food.
We packed up his table, bringing him a shelf from the PA system to use as a table. He just sat and ate slowly.
We packed up the stage trailer, the bus, held our celebration prayer for our volunteer team, and still, he sat eating slowly, barely able to eat.
I am ashamed to say I was agitated — drained from being in the sun all morning. I even had his fork and chair taken, but I was checked in my spirit immediately and gave the fork back to him to keep.
He staggered around the front of the bus holding his food plate, looking for shade, and his pants suddenly fell down below his ankles. He looked as if he only had bones for legs.
I almost missed this opportunity. I repented, right there.
I am ashamed to say I was agitated at being delayed from my “schedule” — no excuse for it.
I am ashamed to say I thought more of “protecting ministry assets,” specifically volunteers’ time, a metal fork and a good dinner plate than a poor wretched soul without a sound mind or hope.
I am ashamed to say I wanted to go home and sit in air-conditioned comfort more than I wanted to help this homeless man in great need.
I am ashamed to say I almost missed the whole point of being a Christian by wanting to leave this homeless man a sack lunch and send him on his way instead of sharing God’s love.
I am ashamed to say I told my fellow volunteers our schedule is more important than caring for the needy.
Most Christians and churches should be ashamed because they say daily — by word and deed — that their priorities are more important than the commands of God and Jesus to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked.” I thank God for making me ashamed, for He truly “opened the eyes of my heart” to see the evidently invisible nation of homeless souls.