I had a 36-year-old man from Eagle Pass come by my office on Tuesday. He had started walking several days earlier and a few rides — and blisters — later, he was in deep East Texas.
When we met, he was tired, hopeless (he had hoped to find some family here — it didn’t work out) homeless and hungry. We got him some food and a motel room for the night (plus a bottle of cream soda); it’s about all we could really do (it put us $68 over our benevolence budget).
He reminded me of Raymond Babbitt, Dustin Hoffman’s character from the movie Rain Man. I shared with Louis that the best thing for him was to go back the way he came, to go back home, that we had done all we could for him. Enjoy the bed, enjoy the shower and enjoy the food, but go back home.
The next day he showed up in my office again, wanting to know if we could give him a ride to a shelter in Marshall (about 30 miles). I reiterated we had done all we could for him, that we were busy, blah, blah, blah. Ten minutes later we were sharing a cream soda and loading up in the church van going to Marshall.
When we pulled up in front of the shelter, Louis said he couldn’t stay there — could we take him to downtown? I again shared what I thought was best: to stay in the shelter and tap into the resources they could offer and to allow them to eventually help him get back home. This man was either hard of hearing or strong-willed. It turns out he was simply scared.
Louis said, “Pastor Ken, it’s hard.”
He had this habit of making a statement like, “It’s hard.” Then he would follow that up with a question, “It’s hard, isn’t it, Pastor Ken?” I would reply, “Yes, Louis, it’s very hard.”
Then he would say, “People are mean. People are mean, aren’t they, Pastor Ken?” No doubt people are mean.
“People don’t care, do they. People don’t care, do they, Pastor Ken?” Needless to say Louis had won my heart.
We went downtown, and I offered to get him a cup of coffee at the Joe Pine Coffee Shop and to kind of get him set up for the afternoon, but he said he was hungry. Did the coffee shop serve sandwiches? The answer is no, they serve coffee. In my mind, I was telling myself again, we had gone the extra mile and done all we could for this man, but as we passed a place on the way to Joe Pine, Louis said, “Isn’t that a sandwich shop?” Yes, yes it is; let’s go inside.
$16 later, we left this defeated man in a strange city. We prayed before we left, and the last thing this sweet man said to me was, “Am I going to be alright?” I don't know, that's something I ask myself and the Lord almost daily.
I learned a lot through this guy. President Eisenhower told us to pick important over urgent, but sometimes what is important looks urgent. I’m glad I chose to spend time with urgent. What was important that day was preparing for a Bible Study, answering an email inbox that was full, tackle a “to do" list that was piled high, returning phone calls and keeping my social media updated. I also learned that 'no' doesn’t always mean no, sometimes God turns our “No” into His “Yes,” and as we submit to God’s will He blesses our socks off. He told to tell you that.