Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Last Seventeen Cents

We've been working with a local organization called The Village for a while. We rented some space in a not-so-nice neighborhood about nine months ago with some lofty ideals about changing the world or some such thing. This is really rather daunting, but I suppose you have to start somewhere. So you put a stake in the ground and say "here, is where we start."

There's a lot more back story to this endeavor, but I want to share one little bit with you.

Today, we had a free parking lot party. Tim did a lot of the planning so we rolled in about an hour before the official start time to set up grills and do whatever needs to be done to have a cook out in a parking lot. Miraculously, it stopped raining long enough for this to happen. (It's rained enough that I saw a mushroom the size of a hubcap today. I may grow gills.)

Our South Korean friend arrived just before we did. He saw a man near the intersection for the highway ramp and the main road. He picked up the man and brought him along. Everything he owned, presumably, was in a rolled up pack about the size of a small pillow. He wasn't unkempt, but he was homeless and ragged, so a certain amount of unkempt goes with the territory. He helped unload grills and carry things. He stayed with us nearly all afternoon eating hamburgers, drinking orange Kool Aid and listening to music. Someone said he was trying to get to Pontiac, Michigan.

As I stood behind the food tables to refill bowls of chips or whatever, I saw him slowly approach the table. We had some flyer's down at the end that we were holding down with a small change bank (like the ones you use for spare change during Lent.) The party was free but a few folks had jammed some bills in the coin slot on the top of the can. They didn't need to, but it was nice anyway. The man refilled his water bottle from the orange Kool Aid container and then reached into the little pocket on his jeans. You know the pocket- the little one in the front that makes them five pocket jeans. He pulled out a few coins. From the looks of him, I have to imagine this is about all he had.

He took a silver coin and some pennies and another coin, maybe a dime, and he put them in the can. He walked away slowly. I saw him a few minutes later on the other side of the building lighting a cigarette and then he was gone. Off to Pontiac I guess.

He didn't need to give us his money. For that matter, our friend didn't need to have picked him up. But he got picked up and he fished in his pockets for coins for the can. Do I ever give that much? Do I ever reach into my pockets and rummage through the last few coins that I have and willingly and cheerfully give them away? Am I that generous with my time? Am I that generous with my talents and spirit that even when I'm pretty sure I have nearly nothing left, I give just a little bit more away?

Well Sir, I don't know who you are, but what you did will stay with me forever. I hope you made it to Pontiac, Michigan. Thank you for coming to our picnic.

5 comments:

Wendy said...

Great story--thanks for sharing. I will take issue with the "not so nice" neighborhood assessment. I've lived here for eight years and don't find it to be so. But still, great ministry can (and should) be done anywhere. Thanks!

JBA said...

Good point Wendy. Thank you. Speaking only for myself, we're busting out of our shells...and that's a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

This story is of Biblical proportions. Thanks for sharing it.

SCB

David A. Stokely said...

I loved your post. . .very nice.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Pay it Forward...you did that, he did that, we can all do that. Thanks for a look into your life and your day...