I got up this morning and still felt like I was supposed to pack up my tent, sleeping bag, and the food I had received from the church yesterday and that God would lead me to someone who needed it. After getting it all packed up, I headed out to the bus stop. I had $5 left, and I could buy an all day bus ticket for $3.
The bus wasn’t there yet, so I waited. It came around 7, and my money was still wet, so it would not go into the machine. The driver did not have any dry money to swap with me, but a nice younger guy had some ones he traded with me. I really had no idea where I was going, but I knew this bus would at least get me to the mall, where all the other buses leave from. I got to the mall around 7:30 and waited on the next bus. I prayed and felt like I was suppose to go to the Tillman’s Corner area. I got on that bus and was shocked to see all the people that use the bus to go to work. Think how hard it would be to time it so you weren’t late to work.
I met a lady named Joan who is homeless, and she rides the bus all day long for $3. She doesn’t really have anywhere to go, but it gets her out of the weather and she mostly sleeps.
“I bet that is great when it is raining,” I said. She nodded her head. She was nice, but painfully shy, so I didn’t get much of her story. The bus takes you to the Walmart on Rangeline Road, so I got off the there. My feet were still killing me. The bottoms of both of my feet were covered in blisters. I started walking toward the Tillman’s Corner area. I was walking across a parking lot, asking God to show me who needed the stuff I was to give away.
I walked for about 30 minutes, and then I saw a man coming toward me. I felt in my spirit that he was the man who needed it. I walked up to him and asked if he knew anyone who needed a tent.
Butch started to tear up. He said he and his wife had been sleeping on the ground in the woods, covering up with a tarp at night. I told him God wanted him to have this one, along with a sleeping bag and some food. Butch was a very hard looking man, but I could almost visibly see his hard exterior melt away and reveal a man who was hurting and in need. God used me to me that need for him. I now knew for sure I had heard from God and it wasn’t me just wanting to go home.
Butch asked me if I wanted to meet his wife, so I walked back in the woods with him and met her. He showed me the spot where they had been staying, and he was very proud to show his wife the tent. She was excited, but you could tell she did not totally trust me. It was so awesome to see God meet the need of someone I didn’t even know, and He let me be a part of it. They just wanted someone to care. It didn’t matter who.
I left them and went to McDonald’s to get a cup of coffee and to charge my phone. I started walking back toward the woods where I had left Butch and his wife, and I met Jeffery. He was an older gentleman who had lost his job and had been out of work for a while and had really just given up on ever finding work again. We talked about how long he had been homeless and then got into a conversation about church and Jesus. He assured me that if it wasn’t for Jesus, he couldn’t make it out there, but he was feeling defeated.
Then, a man named Roger walked up and began to talk to us. They told me that most of the people out in the streets are not bad people. They said there are some bad people out there, but they don’t hang around with them. I saw some really neat qualities in these two guys that I wish I had sometimes.
I know a lot of people, including myself before I really started getting to know people in this position, would see these guys and think, “Bum! Why don’t he get a job?!” but these guys are people — hurting, confused, struggling, people. I count it a blessing to have met these guys and hear about their stories and struggles. They seemed to open up to me because I was one of them, but really I think they would open up to anyone who seemed like they cared. It was an eye-opening experience, and I thanked God for leading me there.
I decided I was going to walk back to the bus. It was now close to 11 a.m., and I could get on the bus and maybe go get a hot meal at 15 Place, a place for people to eat and get help downtown. I got on the bus and it took me to the mall, and then I had to get on another bus to go downtown.
We got downtown around noon, and the dropoff was about 12 blocks from 15 Place, so I had to walk. It was Mardi Gras, so there were many people downtown that day. I got to 15 Place, and they were closed. I then walked to the square downtown and asked a couple of homeless guys if anyone was feeding today, and they said the Salvation Army was at 3 p.m. I was hungry. I started to walk around looking for something to eat. I walked down Government Street, and there were parades going on. Everyone was having a blast.
I had only been out there three days, and I missed my family so much. Watching all these people with their families made it even worse. As I walked, people on the floats threw things my way. A MoonPie landed at my feet, and I picked it up so fast I just about hurt my back. I ate that thing so fast and then went looking for more. That was the best MoonPie I had ever eaten! I probably ate eight MoonPies, and I needed some water, but only had 15 cents.
I walked and saw a vendor booth and went up to the man and asked him if he had some water and how much it was.
“This is donation only. We are trying to do what a local cafe does here and help people out,” he said.
I smiled and thought, “God you are so good!” He just kept giving me signs that I was right where He wanted me. I told the man at the booth I only had 15 cents. “Well, that’s a donation,” he said.
I had to walk another 10 blocks to catch the bus because the bus was not coming all the way into town since it was Mardi Gras. When I got to the bus stop it was 2 p.m., and I waited for the next bus. It never showed up, so I had to catch the bus going into the downtown bus station and then catch the bus back to the mall. We pulled up to the GM&O building as the mall bus was leaving, so I had to wait another hour. I got to the mall around 5 p.m. and then back out to the Providence Hospital bus stop at 5:30 p.m. I walked up to my car at the cafe at about 6 p.m. I put my backpack in and climbed inside my car. As I sat down, I began to weep. All that I had experienced, all I had felt, and all I had seen hit me all at once. It was a flood of emotions. I thought about how blessed I am, and I thought about all those I had met and thousands of others all over this country who do not have a place to go home to. I drove home feeling so overwhelmed at all I had learned and all God was teaching me through this experience.
My thoughts on day 3:
I learned that there are good people who are just in need of someone to show they care. I also learned that if we just get to know someone, we might find out they are not much different from us. Everyone has struggles. We don’t all have the same ones, but we all struggle. We all want to belong and to be treated with respect, and just because we don’t have a home doesn’t take that desire away.
I would like everyone who reads this to understand that all people are made in God’s image, no matter where they live or what they do. God loves them, and He wants us to love them, too. Show your fellow humans respect, and treat them with the same respect you want to be treated with.
We also need to be led more by the Spirit of God and not by our own spirit of fear when it comes to helping others. God will lead us to a need, and He will also give us the ability to meet that need if we would just ask Him. It breaks my heart when I think about all the blessings (like the one with Butch) that I miss because I let my fear, busyness, ignorance, and indifference lead me instead of God’s spirit.
I wonder how many times people cry out to God to meet a need and He puts it on someone’s heart to meet that need, but they ignore it because they are too busy or too scared. It looks to the person in need like God doesn’t care when it really isn’t God that doesn’t care, it’s us. We as the church need to stop preaching about a loving, caring, God and start living like we believe it. People are tired of hearing about it. They want to see it, and it starts with us.
I hope this has blessed each person who has taken the time to read it and that the next time you see a homeless person you will remember they are really just like you. You never know, you might meet a new friend.