I find it easy to ignore people, and I am good at rationalizing it. I am busy doing “important” work. Many times the filter used is whether it’s convenient for me or not. Sometimes even worse, I subconsciously ask myself, “How does this person benefit me and my goals?” I know, it’s embarrassing. However, God is too gracious to leave us so selfish and will often provide us opportunities to be His voice, hands and feet….and when we do, we get just a small taste of what it means to be in God’s world. Let me tell you a story.
One Rainy Day
On June 16th, 2019 (Father’s Day), I was driving down a busy South Florida road on my way to a lunch. The Florida summer was delivering its apocalyptic rainstorm, which only lasts for a few minutes, and I was happy to be safe in my dry car. My attention was drawn to a loan figure, his neck in a brace, his life’s belongings in several rain-soaked bags clinging to his old recycled wheelchair. He was doing his best to move that heavy wheelchair, looking for some shelter from the rain. My initial thought was not one of compassion but gratefulness. I was grateful that I was not him, that my life was a blessed one and that I was not using a wheelchair as Noah’s Ark. I think sometimes that is all of our initial reactions when we see or hear of something tragic. We send up a quick prayer saying to our Lord Jesus, “Thank you for the blessings you have given me.” Don’t get me wrong. I have had my troubles; however, sometimes I withhold my empathy when I hear of someone being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, struggling with a troubled marriage, job loss or perhaps worried about a wayward child. However, again, God is not content in leaving me to wallow in my self-centered world. He promises in the Bible to always keep working on us… to complete the work that He started.
I drove past this poor soul only to hear a gentle nudge from the Lord suggesting that perhaps I ought to go and help this man. I was capable of doing it. I had noticed him, and I did realize there was a need, and God had put me in the right place to do such a thing….my mind drifting to the story of the Good Samaritan….and how quickly we wag our head with disgust as we hear how the Priest and the Levite both walk past this poor man on the road. Wait a minute…. this man is poor, this man is on the road and I am passing him by. Hmmmm, too much correlation. My own modern day, Good Samaritan story unfolding before my very eyes and I am one of the main characters. Which character will I be? I tried to ignore God’s nudging by humming very loudly… sometimes that works but only for a few minutes. I then tried to ignore God by rationalizing that I am busy and on my way to a lunch meeting. Life is full of choices, and I have to make one. However, God’s nudge was able to penetrate my most distracted and hardened heart, and for a brief moment, I saw what He saw. I quickly made a U-turn, pulled up alongside this man, rolled down my window to a small crack and foolishly yelled, “Do you need any help?” I was hoping he might say, “No,” releasing me of my duty. However, he responded to my question with a tone of desperation and simply said, “Yes, get me out of the rain.”
I parked my car, moved this man under an overhang, introduced myself and asked him his name. Peter was his response. We shared a few words, and I got back into my car and headed to my lunch meeting with Peter lingering in my mind. I grabbed Peter a to-go lunch and thought that I would drive by the overhang and see if he would like a nice chicken sandwich. I found Peter slowly drying off in the same place I left him. I pulled up, got out of my car and gave him his hot sandwich. He was so grateful. We spoke for a few minutes, and he shared with me bits and pieces of his life story. Peter was sober, articulate and quite polite. He had not always been homeless, but a variety of circumstances had led him to his situation. I told him I would try and get him some help. He had a small little pay-by-the-month mobile phone, and we exchanged phone numbers. I said goodbye. He was grateful, and I was touched.
I made a few telephone calls, sent a few texts and tried to get him the help that he needed. Quite frankly, he needed to get off the street, into a loving and caring place where he could have a comfortable bed, three meals a day and a safe environment. A few phone calls is all that was needed.
Two Lives Changed
Today, Peter is my friend. He lives in a wonderful home where he is cared for by an angel. His life is still difficult as he tries to piece his life together. He needs ID. He needs some help from the VA. He needs some friends, and he needs to understand that God loves him dearly… so much so that He sent someone to help him…. hmmm, reminds me of something. Now, I am not Jesus; I am a selfish man that God nudged to help another. However, I am an ambassador of Jesus. I made a few phone calls, sent a few texts and the help arrived. I am thankful that my Father nudged me on Father’s Day. I am thankful that God doesn’t leave us to our own thinking, attitudes and perspectives. I am thankful that we live in a community where churches, organizations (in this case the United Way) and people are willing and able to help. I am thankful that God speaks to me despite me trying to hum very loudly. I am thankful that God sees each person as precious whether they drive a wheelchair or an SRT8. I am thankful for my friend Peter, his angel caregiver and for God interrupting my life.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.