Last week I had a session with my counselor (yes, counselors sometimes go to counseling) and then I headed toward home. I had a little time before I needed to pick my daughter up from school (an early release day) and I needed to get gas in the van and a prescription from CVS. I decided to eat at the McDonald’s nearby.
I walked into McDonald’s feeling good about the hour spent with my counselor and the work God is doing in my heart. I went to the restroom first and while I was there I had the sense that I wanted to buy someone’s lunch. There were a couple of men I perceived to be homeless near the restroom, but I didn’t feel convinced they were the ones I was supposed to help. I walked to the counter and ordered my food, then walked to the drink station to get a straw. I heard someone speak to me in a low voice and I looked up. A man asked me if I could give him a few dollars to buy some food. I said, “come with me to the counter and I will buy you some food.” He followed me and ordered a few items and I happily paid, glad that God had made clear who I was to help. I went and sat down. A lady passed by and mouthed “God bless you” to me on her way out. I thanked her.
The man came over and sat at the end of the high table I was eating at and we briefly spoke. Then he bowed his head for a long time and mouthed a prayer. When he looked up there were tears rolling down his cheeks. He spoke softly and I had trouble hearing him, but he said something to the effect that every day God took care of him. I told him God had put it on my heart to help someone and thanked him for allowing me to buy him food. He talked about why he’d ridden a bus to the area, expecting to get work for someone only to find out she was at work and he would have to wait around for hours without anything to eat. He said some things about how it was getting harder to trust people. Then he said he wanted to avoid doing anything crazy. I didn’t ask him what he meant by that.
After I finished eating I told him I needed to run my errands. I thanked him for eating lunch with me and we shook hands. I threw my trash away and then patted him on the shoulder on my way out. I had to have felt at least as blessed as he may have felt.
Later, it occurred to me that I should have asked his name. Using someone’s name acknowledges their dignity. I wish I had done that. But mostly what I thought of the rest of the day was how many opportunities I must miss that God wants to give me simply because I so rarely have it in mind to think of how he might want to use me to help someone. I think of it with clients, but God surely wants me to go farther than that, to open my eyes to the people around me, seeing them the way he sees them. He loves them. He longs for relationship with them.
I tend to focus instead on the people who are irritating me. People with political views I disagree with. People whose driving annoys me. I can’t seem to get through drop-off or pick-up at my daughter’s school without feeling great disgust for all the terrible drivers around me. In my worst moments, I think God surely must be disgusted by the same people who bother me. That’s a far cry from the God revealed in the Gospels.
God, renew my mind! Transform my thinking! Let me see the world with your eyes, with the compassion you feel for the world you love.