We were in the grocery store, my girls and I. It was a Thursday, the minutes creeping precariously close to dinner. This trip though, was going smoothly; this trip, the girls were laughing; this trip, they were helping me load food into our cart.
As we turned into the frozen food aisle, I saw him at the other end. We made our way down the aisle, he made his way closer to us.
His pants had holes, his toes peeking through his weathered shoes. His face looked dirty, though it could have been from his worn down hands constantly brushing his ragged hair out of his eyes.
He carried nothing in his hands, his eyes looked tired.
Sometimes, in this situation, I might feel hesitation. A stranger and me, alone in a large aisle.
This time though, something shifted.
I saw him.
Questions raced through my heart- did he have somewhere to sleep that night? Did he have family in town to help him? What turns had his life taken that made it so difficult? How long had he been walking? How long has he been on the side? How long had he been tired?
We got closer, and I paused. I looked him in the eyes, “Hello.”
I could see his shoulders release. Tension must sit there, preparing for strangers to cast him aside, to criticize, to shame.
I smiled. My Brennan girl jumped up and down and then did a twirl, arms raised and up on her tiptoes- a greeting reserved for times when she feels oh-so-happy.
Ma’am… I am so sorry to have to ask this… but I am trying to buy something for my daughter… it’s $1.57 and I don’t have that. Do you think you might be able to help?
There have been times when I have said no. Times when I have wondered if that is the true story. If they are going to use that money to fuel unhealthy life decisions.
But here is what I have landed on: It is always better to err on the side of generosity.
See, big things happen in my heart and in my world when I let go of shaming, of judging, of criticizing… and I just give. The story might play out in one way or in another… but at least I did something.
And so, when the man in the grocery store aisle asked for one single dollar and fifty seven cents… I said Absolutely, Sir. Let me get my wallet. And in that aisle, as I fished through my wallet, my Brennan girl continued to spin and my fingers landed on a Five Dollar Bill.
I questioned whether I should give him the Five or make it more awkward as I fished out exact change for this gentleman.
Seriously? Get your hands on that five dollar bill, sister.
And so I handed him the $5.
He grinned from ear to ear, thanked me profusely… and we parted ways.
As we walked away, I explained to my girls what just happened. That we need to step into other peoples lives and do what we can to help. To get out of our context. And so that is what we did for that gentleman… he needed a little bit of money… we had a little bit of money… and that is the way that we could help him in that moment.
And here’s the thing though, friends: We parted ways, and I checked out and paid for our food with money that we have, loaded into a car that we own, and parked in a safe home in a safe neighborhood knowing what tomorrow will hold.
He walked down that aisle, used that $5.00… and walked into the night, into a future that must feel uncertain, vulnerable, and scary.
How easily I can walk away, drive away and move on. I can close my eyes, turn my gaze, shut my ears. And I have before and I do every single day.
My life looks and has looked and will look so very different than so very many.
This world is broken and this world is breaking.
I just can’t shake my encounter with my friend in the grocery store aisle.
I just can’t turn my head anymore.
Really, I can do more than $5.00. Really, I can’t shut my eyes. There are so, so many marginalized in our very own city, our very own country, our very own world.
My heart is yearning to act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.
I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet.
But it needs to happen.
~~ Do you have any good ideas on ways you have engaged with your city and community and people who need it? Would love to hear it~~