Friday, September 13, 2013
Hope for the Dejected
It was almost noon by the time I was finished, so I decided to swing through a fast food taco place to grab lunch on my way home. It's my default place if I want to pick up a meal for Sean and I and stay under $10.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I couldn't help noticing a figure hunched down by the dumpster behind the restaurant. The grey hair topped a slight, thin frame. He was sitting on the only available seat to someone in his situation, the curb. Next to his left leg lay a backpack, clearly aged and dirty from being out in the elements from who knows how long. His skin matched the dirty brown of the backpack, and the leathery look convinced me that the backpack was clearly the newer of the two of them.
But as dirty and tired as the almost 70-year-old man looked, it was the expression on his face that caught my eye. Dejection. Abandonment. Hopeless. Dead dreams.
I drove past him and into the drive through lane. I ordered food for Sean and I, and then added a combo meal consisting of three tacos and a large drink. I've never been excited by the idea of just handing over money to someone on the street. I've always said that giving them a meal is a better choice...but I'm ashamed to say that I don't do it often enough.
Pulling back around the restaurant, I parked the car, and got out. The man hadn't moved since I originally passed him, and I wasn't sure that he was even cognitively there. I gently walked up to him carrying the tacos and drink.
He slowly looked up into my face without saying anything.
"Are you hungry?"
With an effort, his soft voice traveled up to me, "Yes."
I set the drink down on the ground next to him along with the tacos, "There are three tacos, some sauce, and a drink. I hope you enjoy it."
He made no move toward the food, but said, "Thank you," as I turned to walk away.
I walked back to my car, and craned my neck to peer through the windows of the one car that was parked between me and him. I watched as he very slowly picked up the sack of tacos. I could see him carefully looking into the sack to see what exactly I had given to him. Then I watched as he tied the sack closed and tucked it next to him by his backpack. At first, I thought that he wasn't hungry, or maybe didn't like tacos, but then I watched as one of the tacos that he had removed without me noticing was carefully unwrapped on his lap. After taking a long look at it, he started using his fingers to put taco filling in his mouth.
And then I realized two things. The first is that he had tied his taco sack shut because he was saving them for later. He didn't know where his next meal was coming from, so he had been counting the tacos to see how far they would get him. He decided on one taco for lunch. One taco. I can eat three without blinking, but a full grown man, was limiting himself to just one even though he was hungry.
The second, is that he had no teeth. He was eating the filling because he couldn't crunch through the taco shell. Which meant that his lunch was going to consist of approximately 1/4 cup of taco meat.
I wondered if I should go back through the drive through and order something softer, but as I looked at him, I saw a man who was broken and empty, and I hesitated to take his last bit of dignity away by acknowledging his lack of teeth.
Pulling out of the parking lot, I turned the car toward home. I knew he was probably still eating his taco, trying to make it last, and I suddenly saw him as a little boy. With a mom, just like me. A mom who, hopefully, loved him, cuddled him, made sure that he had enough to eat, and wanted the best for him. Or maybe he had a mom who didn't care, but regardless, at one time he was my boys' age. Young and innocent. Full of dreams, goals, and hope. And now he was sitting on a curb, by a dumpster, outside of a fast food restaurant, hungry.
And then I couldn't help the tears that welled-up in my eyes
In the three weeks since I ran into the man outside of the fast food joint, I haven't been able to get the picture of him as a little boy out of my mind. What went wrong? Who didn't care enough about him? Or what bad decisions did he make because he simply didn't have the education or hope in Jesus that I do?
Compassion International. When Sean originally picked them out, he looked for the two kids who had been waiting for sponsors the longest. We can't help every homeless person in the world, but we know that our small donation will help shape the future of our kids: Mantu who is in India and Manuella who is in the Dominican Republic. There have been times during our marriage that money has been extremely tight, and we have had to cut back on things (like right now while we have one income and four kids in diapers). But one thing that we've insisted on making room for in our budget was our Compassion kids. The value of loving these kids by providing them with hope for the future is too important to simply make it an optional line item.
With all of the charities and organizations vying for attention these days, I know that most families are overwhelmed by the options. But this organization and the work they do to educate, provide food and healthcare, and teach these precious children about Jesus is some of the most important work being done for those in poverty. It's life changing, and we know that the few dollars we send as our kids' sponsors is not being wasted.
This month, for every comment you leave on our blog, we are donating an additional $0.10 to Compassion International, but will you do me a favor? Will you jump over to their website and see if a child catches your eye? Those are real children who are looking for real sponsors. It would bless us so incredibly if a few of our readers considered adding a child in poverty to their families. Just go take a look and pray about it, would you?
The links contained in this post are connected to us and our Compassion kids. If you choose to sponsor a child for your own family, our Compassion kids will get an extra gift for their families to help make ends meet. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.