“Amen I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” Mt 25:45
We have people in our lives with whom we interact on a daily or weekly basis, yet we don’t know anything about them. It might be the barista at the coffee shop we patronize on the way work; the bartender at the place we go after work; the cashier at the deli; or the waitress we see for Sunday brunch.
For me, it was the homeless man I drove past regularly on my way to get lunch. For roughly two years, on and off, I’d see him on Chase Avenue, in between the Piggly Wiggly and Home Depot, with a sign that read something like, “Need Food Please.”
Donations to local shelters and nonprofits go further than donations to an individual on the street. I knew that when I first saw him and figured he’d be taken care of eventually. Still, he would appear in the same spot and I continued to ignore him and his sign, yet his presence nagged at my conscience.
This past summer I hit my limit. I couldn’t keep driving past someone clearly in need and not attempt to help.
Instead of buying him a sandwich, I got him a toothbrush, toothpaste, a jug of water, pint of milk, two bars of soap, shampoo, loaf of bread, sliced ham and cheese, and a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine (the Brewers were on the cover).
While I handed him the bag, I told him what was inside, and after several items he said, “Thank you.” After I told him I got him some bars of soap he said, “I could use it,” and let out a hearty laugh.
His skin was tan and wrinkled. He wore a old dark baseball cap, I couldn’t tell what the logo was; a rumpled, stained white T-shirt; faded jeans; and running shoes caked with mud. He had a rolling backpack filled with clothes, a pillow, blanket, razors (he looked clean shaven, almost no facial hair) and some snacks. I saw he had some tattoos on his forearms and neck.
He said his name was Floyd Jackson and that he was from Michigan. We talked over several lunch breaks and I got him more stuff.
In this issue, we talk a lot about vocations, mainly for those entering or considering religious life. But that doesn’t mean those of us who aren’t going down that road don’t have a vocation. We do – it’s to serve each other.
Our vocation extends beyond concern for our loved ones and closest friends; it includes concern for everyone with whom we come in contact.
I haven’t seen Floyd in his spot recently. I hope he’s safe and taking care of himself, or is someplace with someone who can take care of him.
But as the nights get colder I know I’ll see another “Floyd” on a different street and I’ll be back standing at that moral crossroad to help — or not to help.