So, I realize it’s been a while since I’ve last written…if you consider four months to be a long time. The last four months have been pretty crazy. I’ve had lots of different ideas about different things I want to write about, but I haven’t had the motivation to sit down and write it. So, here I am; writing about one of the things that has taught me a lot.
Back in December, Deborah and Sarah (my sisters), were riding in a separate car than myself and friend, Jabez, were on our way to our college Bible study Christmas party. When we arrived, there was a lot of food and a lot of people. It was pretty typical for a Christmas party. Towards the end of the evening, Deborah told me that she saw a homeless man in the median of one of the main roads here in Lakeland who looked cold and potentially hungry. There were plenty of leftovers at the party, so she decided to get a couple of to-go boxes and some sodas to take to this man if we could find him.
We drove around downtown looking for him. There was no telling who exactly it was that she saw on the median. As we were driving we saw this man who was pushing a shopping cart full of things; mainly aluminum cans. It was a chilly night and all he had on was a black beanie and a short-sleeved shirt. We decided we would stop and give this gentleman the food that we brought. His name was Jerry. Jerry was an older gentleman who had seen his fair share of full moons. He lived his life on the streets going from shelter to shelter. We talked with him for about 40 minutes and he was extremely thankful for the food and the company. We got talking and he told us a little bit about himself and where he came from. He grew up in Louisiana as one of many children. His mother passed away when he was young and he never knew his father. He had been in and out of jail all of his life. He had struggled with drug abuse in the past and was in the process of getting his life together.
As we talked about his past and what he was doing now, he said something that I’ll never forget. He said, “There are so many excuses to do wrong things, but there are always reasons to do the right things. You just have to look for them.”
I made a mental note of that and wrote it down as soon as we got back in the car. He was absolutely right. When it comes to our life and doing the right thing, we often make excuses to not do them because doing the right thing can sometimes be inconvenient, time-consuming, or uncomfortable. Because of this, we find ourselves doing the wrong things when we know we should be doing the right thing. We have to decide that the reason for doing the right thing outweighs the excuse to do the wrong thing. For Jerry, he decided that instead of using his circumstances (being a homeless, former drug addict) to live recklessly and treat himself and other people as if they don’t matter, he would spend his days helping other people that are on the streets. One of the first things he said to us when we gave him the food was, “Oh man! The guys are going to love this!” He was excited to use the food that we gave him to help someone else, rather than keep it all for himself. That spoke volumes of his character. He was only concerned with helping other people. Towards the end of the conversation, Deborah noticed that he was shivering, so she decided to give him one of her blankets (if you know Deborah, you know that she loves her blankets). He couldn’t have been more excited or thankful that she gave him that fuzzy, gray blanket.
What I learned is that instead of using bad things that happen in my life as excuses to hurt people and myself, I should use them as a reason to treat people as Jesus would. I should let God use me in any situation that I find myself in, whether it be a job I don’t quite enjoy, if I’m having a bad day, if I’m in a new stage of my life that is difficult, or even if relationships with family or friends are less than ideal. It’s way more important for me to brighten another person’s day, whether it’s by giving them food, holding a door open for them, or even simply smiling at them, than it is to let my situation sit over me like a raincloud and be bitter and standoffish. After all, life is way more than just working 9-5, trying to accumulate as much money/things as I can, or trying to do things that will only benefit myself. Life is about using my circumstances and resources (no matter how small or abundant) to help other people in whatever they are going through.
So, thank you to Jerry for helping me to understand this valuable concept through a different lens. And thanks to Deborah for being like Jesus and wanting to help others…even if that means giving up one of your favorite blankets.
[Disclaimer: The feature picture is not an actual one of Jerry. It’s the closest one that I could find that resembled him and his cart full of cans.]