Bear with me. This will be a tad lengthy, but will be worth your time.
I read a post from a Christian author (Edward Fudge) yesterday in which he described a chance meeting with a homeless person who needed shoes. Fudge was in his car at the time and a quick check of his pockets revealed a $5 bill and a $20 bill. Unwilling to part with the bills, he instead emptied his car's coin tray and gave that to the man.
As he drove away, he was instantly guilt-stricken. Fudge related that he had just been listening to audio tapes on Christian discipleship...and here was an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ which he mishandled completely. He immediately prayed that God would give him a second chance.
Minutes later, he was gassing his car. Across the street he noticed a beggar with an amputated leg. Edward went over to meet him, gave him the $5 bill and said, "Please accept this in the name of Jesus!" "Ah, a Jesus man," the beggar responded. He then lifted both hands in the air and said, "Thank you, Jesus!"
I was touched by this story. Often, in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods where I drive a school bus, I will see someone pushing a grocery cart loaded with aluminum cans. To me, these folks presented a case for being the perfect people to help. Here they are actually working rather than begging on a street corner. However, the sheer logistics of suddenly stopping a school bus on a busy street made such an opportunity to render aid impossible.
So, after reading Fudge's account, I said a silent prayer that God give me a way to help people like the cart pushers. I didn't have to wait long.
A little after 7 this morning, I had parked my bus in my usual holding area near Hawn Freeway. As per my morning ritual, I closed my eyes and prayed for a time. When I opened them, here is what I saw: about 30 feet in front of me a woman was searching a large garbage container for cans. There was a tobaggon pulled down low on her forehead and she was wearing a Dallas Cowboys jacket. She was using a long stick to probe the innards of the trash can, occasionally lifting up plastic sacks and shaking beer cans loose.
She would stomp the cans flat and put them her own plastic bag. Then she would continue the operation. Minutes went by. The single-mindedness of her quest could not be underestimated. She was relentless. Occasionally, she would extract something other than aluminum that would be put into another bag. I found myself transfixed by this real-life drama being carried out at sunrise. Boom! It hit me. The prayer from yesterday. God had heard my prayer and was answering it in an unmistakable manner; I had been too overly-curious to catch on at first.
Now, it was 7:28 - a minute before I have to leave and head to the first stop. I eased the bus next to her; she was now nearly 20 minutes into this feverish attempt to what, feed herself? Her children? I opened the bus doors and she turned around. Her wrinkled face at first registered slight alarm. I didn't have any idea what I was going to say, but heard myself utter, "You look like you need a break!" I handed her a twenty. The face lit up and she smiled broadly. Amazingly, she had beautiful teeth. (How long had her life been on this track? Had she just recently been forced to the streets?) "Thank you," she gushed. "God bless you," was all I could think to say.
What a way to start the day. What a marvelous, interesting, amazing God we serve!