Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Eve Angel

This past Christmas eve my wife and I headed out to get one last gift and stop by the grocery store. The last minute gift wasn't due to lack of planning. My middle daughter has been asking for a fish. For months she has bombarded us with the need for a fish.  We decided to surprise her for Christmas and I didn't want to kill the thing before Christmas, so I waited until Christmas eve to buy the fish.

After we got the fish and accessories, we drove to the grocery store. While pulling into the grocery store we saw a young man who was obviously down on his luck. As he walked across the parking lot, I noticed his shoes. The tongue on one was flopping, and as he walked past, I said to my wife, Susan, "his shoes don't have any soles." and we drove by.

I dropped Susan off at the door, and as I did, my heart was breaking for this young man who was walking around with no soles on his shoes. I circled the parking lot looking for him. As I neared the end of the lot, he was crossing the street - I was too late.

I circled back to wait for my Susan. It was during this time, that the picture of this young man pierced my heart. I could not get his image out of my mind. Living in an urban area, we see a lot of destitute people. Begging for money or food on a daily basis. Most of them, seldom catch my eye. For some reason this young man did not only catch my eye, but he caught my heart. I prayed for guidance.

Susan emerged from the store and I drove to pick her up. As she got into the truck I said to her, "bear with me, I need to do something."
"OK" she said. "What are you going to do?"
"I have to see if I can find that man we saw with the bare shoes." I replied.
"OK, What are you going to do when you find him?"
"I have shoes, I am going to give him my shoes if they will fit." I said.

So we drove in the direction I last saw him. As we neared a stop light I saw him walking on the opposite sidewalk. Driving past I pulled into a church parking lot in front of him, parked and got out of the truck.

"Hello," I said as I approached.
He looked directly at me, but never spoke or slowed down. It is not uncommon for people in his situation to be skeptical of everyone who approaches.
"Looks like you have had a hard time lately." I said walking towards him.
He stopped and I asked him a question. "I wonder if you would do me a favor?"
His skepticism increased, and he just looked at me puzzled and alert. I guess he seldom gets asked for favors.
"Will you swap shoes with me?" I asked.
He looked at me - questioning.
"What size shoes do you wear?" I asked.
"Perfect, they will fit me." I said as I slid mine off of my socked feet.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Pete, what is yours?" I replied.
"Derek." he said as we shook hands.
Derek then kicked off his shoes and revealed dirty bare feet inside the worn shoes. As he slid his feet into my shoes, I asked again, "Can I have these shoes?"
"There is no sole left on them." He said.
"Perfect! Already broken in." I said smiling at him.
I gave him some cash, shook his hand again and wished him a Merry Christmas and we left.

Derek has been on my mind and heart ever since. I am not sure why this one young man caught my attention. I am not sure what made me do what I did. But as I think about it, I want to be clear that I tell you this story for one reason.

I do not tell this story to bring attention to myself, but to bring attention to the fact that the world is full of "Derek's". It saddens me how many I choose to "not see". It pains me to think of how many other young men and women are out there with no soles on their shoes, no home or family, no hope. It breaks my heart to think of them. And it reminds me how blessed I am.

I know that many of us are simply products of decisions we make. But I also know that so many people are just one paycheck away from Derek.

As I sat in the truck praying I was reminded of a verse in  Mark 9:41 where Jesus tells us "anyone who gives a cup of water in my name will not lose their reward."

I knew I needed to offer a "cup of water" to Derek.

I also believe that Derek has helped me far more than I helped him. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

Is Derek an angel? I don't know, but I do know that he has blessed me, this brief encounter has changed me in a profound way. His shoes are in my office resting on my hearth where I can see then everyday and be reminded that there are many "Derek's" out there that need assistance. And that I need to be more aware of their plight.

God's speed Derek.

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