The day before Carter’s Birthday was also Pack Up Our Entire House Day. I was tired. I was frustrated. And I realized that somewhere among the sweet women packing up my home, all my piping tips and bags went into a box simply labeled “kitchen.” Instead of unpacking the 1934923 boxes with that label, I opted to just run to Wal-Mart and grab some of the gross tube icing. I needed it in black.
I don’t know if I’ve ever explained my hatred for Wal-Mart, but I had a high school teacher who described Wal-Mart perfectly. He simply said, “It takes me to a dark place.” and I’ve used that phrase since my sophomore year. Why do I hate Wal-Mart? I’ll tell you.
While everyone else is wearing their pajamas and nobody cares, I care. On that off chance that I choose to wear even yoga pants to Wal-Mart, I would see at least three people that I know. And I’d talk to all of them. Trust me. This has happened. Also, people act a fool in Wal-Mart. Seriously. Why are children riding bikes up and down the frozen food section? It drives me bananas.
In addition to my regular dislike for Wal-Mart, I REALLY disliked Foley, Alabama’s Wal-Mart during this time because they were “renovating” their store. I say renovating in quotation marks because I think they really just wanted to mess with my head. Why are the chips next to the shoes? Who took all of the two liter cokes?
And WHO MOVED THE ICING!?!
While standing extremely frustrated in what should have been the bread aisle, but was now (due to “renovations”) the baking aisle, I was trying to determine if it was worth it to make the cupcakes into a treasure map. Like, could I just make it work without?
For those of you who came to the birthday party, you know I didn’t make the treasure map.
The reason is because while standing there cursing under my breath, I smelled a strong urine scent. Now, what I’m about to say will cause you to judge me, but if you’re a stay at home mom, you might relate. I pulled up my shirt and smelled it. I know, I know, Why would i go to Wal-Mart smelling like pee? It happens, okay. Kids pee. They pee and throw up and do all kinds of things that cause disgusting odors that you overlook when you’re a mom. Anyway, it wasn’t my shirt. I try to follow the scent with my nose. I look around. Finally I recognized that down the aisle, about half way, was a man. I surveyed this man. He was definitely the root of the smell. It was obvious that he hadn’t showered in a while. His clothes were worn and and so was he. He was also sporting a walkman… I think just a radio… with some of those old school headphones. You know, not the apple ones.
And that’s when I slowly put back my icing and began to sob.
I walked away, but really I just hid behind the apple juice on the end cap and thought… Why was he there? Why did he have the walkman? Was he homeless? Did he have a family? Who doesn’t have a family? There are homeless people in Foley? What does his shirt say? Is he wearing shoes? He’s not. He isn’t wearing shoes. Why doesn’t he have shoes? Why is he buying cooking oil? Oh, he’s coming this way. Look normal. Don’t be a stalker.
But I was a stalker. I followed like I was trailing him in a police car. I prayed. I prayed that God would help me help him.
Then it occurred to me… What if he wasn’t homeless? What if he was just old? Or crazy? What if he didn’t want me to help him? What if he started yelling or something when I tried to talk to him?
So then, I did something that I am definitely not proud of.
I didn’t even approach him… I just left.
When I got into the car with Matthew who was waiting outside. He asked what took so long and I began to tell him about the man and I cried again. I tried to rationalize that maybe God put those thoughts in my head because the guy would have been offended and that patched that feeling of guilt… for a while.
Once we moved, I was too consumed with everything else to remember the man. I completely forgot about him, actually… until we went to the Botanical Garden in Oklahoma City.
As we were leaving I saw a woman who, to many, would probably just look like a lady hanging and enjoying the scenery…. but as we left, I noticed that she had a trash bag with her. She was wearing a heavy coat, shoes that were way too big, and thick pants. Her hair was matted and looked like it hadn’t been combed… or even washed.. maybe in weeks.
And there it was.
I just wanted to hold her. I wanted to take her to my car and drive her wherever she wanted to go. I wanted to feed her. I wanted to put her up in a hotel for the night. I wanted to know her story. I still want to know her story.
Guess what I did?
That’s right… I walked my merry self in my target jeans and my $40 highlights to my nice car. I buckled in my Polo clad children and drove away.
That night, I cried so much. I thought to myself, “This will be better tomorrow. I’m over tired, I miss my family, and I’m just being dramatic. This feeling will go away.”
But it didn’t.
So, I prayed and journaled and really thought about this. I realized that this feeling isn’t new. I felt this way when I first started in ministry at Engulf. I expressed this feeling to others, but most of them were so calloused and said things like “I wouldn’t give anyone money… they’ll probably just use it for booze or drugs.” or “Why don’t they just go get a job?” Someone even told me that most homeless people want to be homeless. Maybe they do. I don’t know and I really don’t care.
That’s right, I said it. I don’t care if they use that money for booze or drugs. I don’t care if they want to be homeless. I care that I wasn’t Jesus to these people because the world has taught me that they “deserve” to be homeless or that they will take advantage of my giving. I have to ask… If someone in your family was living a reckless life far away from God. They were making choices that would lead them down an obviously destructive path and told you that they enjoyed their life there, what would you do? Would you say, “Oh, I can’t help you… you want to be reckless?”
Once again the world (and satan) has pursuaded me that in my glass house, I shouldn’t worry my pretty little mind about “those people.” Wait… why am I listening to the world? Why am I listening to Satan?
Here’s what God’s Word says. “Give food to the hungry and care for the homeless.” in Isaiah 58:10. Please note that it doesn’t follow with, “unless you think they might use it on booze, drugs, or if you think they might like being homeless.” It just says to give the hungry food and give the homeless care.
I want to be honest with myself when I see someone in need. I want to follow that God-Given drive and help. I know people are concerned about children in Uganda… I am too, but we should also concern ourselves with people and children in our own communities that are hurting.
Hurting people, I will help you. Hungry people, I will feed you. Homeless people, I will care for you.
Even if you want to be hurting, hungry, or homeless.