Friday, June 25, 2010


He smelled. Awfully.  He was loud, demanding, and often drunk. He was constantly begging for money for food and coffee.  Or so he said. He was dressed in a tattered shirt, and muddy jeans. He always had an old boonie hat, and wore scuffed, dirty work boots. I couldn’t tell you how old he was, but if I had to guess, I would say 60’s. Late 60’s at best. He may have been much younger than that, but, recently, life had not been what he had hoped.

I didn't know much about him.  What little I knew came from our brief conversations.  His name was Richard, and he was homeless, but also had family in the city.  Where or why the relationship had broken down, I did not know, but he did not consider his family a resource, only a memory.  He spent his nights at a homeless shelter downtown whenever he could. If that wasn't an option, he would lay on a nearby bench to pass the time.


Our church at the time was a small one. It was on a busy road that connected one part of the city with the downtown, and the homeless shelter. The main entrance was at the back of the church, and the doors opened up directly to the street. There was no foyer. Once you made it up the few steps from the street and opened the door, you were directly in the sanctuary. The doors had their own alarm of sorts. Any time someone opened the door, the sounds of vehicles rushing along the street below would betray the opening. Even if traffic was light, the doors would still announce arrivals. The mini-blinds on the door were not fastened at the bottom.  Opening the door would send the bottom half of the mini-blinds crashing about, trying to keep up with the top half.


I first met Richard when he walked into our church and sat in the back row. He didn't understand what my dad, the preacher, was saying, since my dad preached in Spanish. A big part of me just wanted to ignore the smelly man in the back mumbling to himself.  However, feeling a sense of duty, I gave up my seat on the second row, sat next to him in the back, and translated for the rest of the service.  After the service, we headed over to a nearby restaurant to make sure that, for at least that night, Richard could have his food and some coffee.

It wasn't something I wanted to do.  I didn't do it because it made me feel better.  Truth be told, I'm really not sure why I did it.  Every time the doors opened and the blinds did their thing, I looked back, hoping to some degree that it would not be him.  If it was, I would trudge to the back row, and sit next to him.  While I translated, I would do my best to hide my discomfort and hope that, at least to Richard, I appeared normal.

Every now and then, Richard would miss church. Inevitably, in a day or so, I would see him lying on the bench as I drove by at night.  Soon, he would once again show up and take his place at the back row.  And I, answering more to duty than desire, would take my seat next to him.

One day, I was sitting at home watching the news, and I felt goosebumps stand my hairs on end.  The on-scene reporter spoke of a fatal accident on the street near our church.  Someone had been struck trying to cross the street.

Behind the reporter, I could make out the outline of an empty bench.

As soon as I could break free, I drove out there wanting to find nothing, hoping to be wasting my time.  As I approached the church, I noticed something small in the middle of the road, barely illuminated by a nearby street light.  I slowed down to get a better view, my heart in my throat.

There, in the middle of the road, was a scuffed, dirty work boot.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

“Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Matthew 25:35-40

Who is your Richard?


Did it MY way said...

Before I closed my business I had noticed this man going thru my dumpster looking for scrap steel he could sell. He was homeless, and not looking for charity. I started to save the scraps, and gave them to him on a regular basis. He was always polite, always brought my buckets back,and thanked me each time.

I asked him where he lived, and he said in the woods. Well I had an old tent I was not using, and I gave him that.

To make a long story short My business was going to close in Sept of 2009. The building had 18 units, and the landlord was in 17 of them. The building is in the bankructy court. So when I left I gave him the key. We had the coldest winter in history, so I was glad he was able to be inside at least.

About every 2 weeks I would take him some food, and my soft drink cans. He has been lucky enough for the last 10 months.

Yesterday I received a call from the local sherif telling me he has to move. Local ordiances says no living in a storage unit without electricity or water. 10 months without any trouble at all.

I wonder what we humans are becoming?

God Bless.

Lawyer said...

Unfortunately, we often look to the government to deal with the undesirables, but I believe that morally, the duty belongs to the individual. It's not a question of more or less fortunate, but of humanity.

And ultimately, a respect for life.