This week, as I was just beginning preparations to leave for theater class, my phone rang. It was the mother of some of The Princess' fellow classmates, wondering where we were. Somehow, we had missed the change in class time, and were supposed to have arrived 45 minutes early. The class had already started.
We raced around, throwing everything together, and rushed out the door. As we drove down our country road, I noticed an unusual shape where the road met the highway. Drawing closer I realized it was a bicyclist, bending over by the side of the road. As I watched, he slowly moved out into our road, holding something in his hands. It was garbage that had blown into the gully. Then he got off the bike, bent over, picked something off the ground... and ate it.
He was practically in the middle of the road, but he appeared oblivious to the approach of my van. I slowed down and drove past him; he still didn't raise his eyes. The man was gaunt; he had packs and rolls tied onto the back of his bicycle.
I stopped at the intersection to the highway and looked in the rear view mirror. He was slowly pedaling toward me, ready to turn back on the highway and continue on his journey.
I can't really tell what went through my mind at that moment. Something like, "hungry. garbage. homeless. tired. crackers." I put the van in park and jumped out.
He was still riding toward me but didn't see me. It took a few attempts before I got his attention. I asked, "Do you need some food? Are you hungry?" His face went from tired to worried to suspicious to relieved as I watched. "Oh. Yes. That would be great." "Hang on, I'll get you whatever I can find."
I ran to the van and grabbed all the car snacks I had. One granola bar, a package of peanut butter crackers, and an already opened sleeve of Ritz crackers. I brought them to him, his hands cupped to receive them. "It isn't much, I'm sorry. I keep snacks in the car for my kids." He looked at them like he was holding a treasure. "No, this is great. Really, thanks."
"Where are you headed?" I asked. "West," he said. "No, east. That way." He waved his hand in the direction he was traveling and half-smiled almost apologetically. "Just, well, you know, going."
But I really didn't know. Couldn't imagine. "Blessings on your travels." I smiled, and jumped back in the van to speed my little actress to her class.
My mind was like a gigantic cave with words and emotions careening off the walls and into each other.
"Blessings on your travels... that sounds so trite."
"He didn't even notice my van driving toward him or me talking to him because he was so hungry; he can't focus, how will he be safe on the highway?"
"I have never ever even once seen a homeless person in this community, and here he was at the end of my country road."
"I never would have met this man if theater hadn't been early, and we had missed the change."
It was one of those moments that simultaneously terrifies and uplifts. I have some sort-of strategies for dealing with homeless people in the city who ask for help (more about that soon), but this was so totally unexpected and out of context. And he didn't ask for help. I saw him, I was stunned... I just acted.
It was very moving. I can't really say why. If theater class had been at the regular time, I wouldn't have been there. If I had known about the time change, I wouldn't have been there.
It touched me deeply that the opportunity for our lives to cross was a matter of seconds. There it was. And then it was gone. How many times has God given me moments like these that I have missed?
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14For some reason, this time, He got my attention.