Today I did gratefully did something uncharacteristic of myself. I fed a homeless person. Let me back track.
I give money for St. Vincent de Paul, I’ve made sandwiches to take to the homeless shelter. I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity and supported our sister parish in Haiti. I teach about Catholic Social Justice, but today was different. I, my direct person, not through some other organization fed and talked with a homeless person. You’d think it happens all the time around here and I guess maybe it does, but like Fr. Fred Wendel spoke about at Mass a couple Sundays ago I often like most people choose not to see it or am overly suspicious and paralyzed by fear. Ridiculous!
I can count only one other time I’ve interacted and talked or rather listened to a homeless person. I might have blogged about giving money to the family with a van load of little kids coming through Georgia back home to I don’t remember where and they ran out of gas so felt prompted to give them what I had. And when I did it, it felt like the right thing to do. Sure I could have been a dupe, but if you’ve worked with people you can sense what you hope is sincerity.
Today was the same. This homeless man came in not badly dressed, but obviously in need and I noticed him a little ways up the road earlier this morning on my way into the office. He asked about St. Vincent dePaul and food coupons. He didn’t ask for money or get snotty as often happens when I told him they weren’t in today and that we didn’t have access to any of their funds. He simply said “thank you” and started to leave the building . And that’s when the prompting hit me.
I didn’t happen to have any money to give him myself, I had spent my last money on my person to get a splash of gas on the way in. But as I turned back into the kitchen to fill my coffee cup, I saw a half a sheet cake we had left over from a reception on Sunday. And it hit me to offer him some cake, but then I thought to myself, cake isn’t a very nutritious thing to offer him, then the prompting came “but he has nothing does it matter?” So I opened to the door and called to him and told him we happened to have some cake he could have if he’d like. He said he would.
I asked him to sit down at one of the tables in the Admin Hall and stood and talked with him while he ate. My own fears came up briefly and said “what are you doing? You don’t know this person at all?” But I didn’t get worked up like I normally do, it just felt alright. He shared a little of his story with me, his name is Charles. He never asked me my name or any personal information. He complimented us on our nice church and asked a couple of rather informed questions and then told me he had been raised Catholic by the nuns in a boys home. He wanted to know what happened to the habits and could I light a candle for him.
Interestingly enough I think to play on my our fears, the someone in one of the offices called me away from him to her office and was quite upset with me. Saying this was a private office areas, and what was I thinking setting this precedent and once you feed them they don’t go away, blah, blah, blah. I just looked at her and said I realize he’s a stranger and I’m staying with him until he leaves. And I did. He did ask me for one thing – did I have anything he could use to bandage his feet. He doesn’t have a car and walked here from Dekalb and his feet were blistered. I said again I don’t have much but I could give him some of the First Aid supplies and offered him the bathroom to care for his wounds.
He did and I waited, then I told him I had to get back to work and I’d walk him outside it was such a nice day. And he said to me “This is the day the Lord has made.” Yes and it’s a good one.