Monday, September 19, 2011

A Face In The Crowd

Yesterday I went to a ball game in Toronto. The Blue Jays beat out the Yankees. It was a good game, a good day, with great weather and wonderful fellowship.

Whenever I go to Toronto, I am amazed at the number of buildings, cars, and people. Yesterday was no exception. As we left the Rogers Centre, we were a sea of bodies and faces. The human traffic moved slowly up the stairs, across the lobby, and out the doors. As we inched toward the street, on our way to find the bus that we arrived on, one lone figure stood out. He was perched at the intersection, faced toward the oncoming crowd. In his hand he held a paper Tim Horton's coffee cup, empty of coffee, and containing one lone Loonie coin. Now, in Toronto, it is common to see people begging on the street. But where I live, I hardly ever encounter it. And as it usually does, yesterday it caused some conflicting thoughts.

In those moments before I reached the man, many thoughts raced through my mind. When I first realized what he was doing, I remembered my wallet, buried under my knitting and all the other paraphernalia I had tucked into my bag. The crowd had me captive, moving me along at a slow but steady pace, and my two companions were somewhere ahead of me. No time to dig for my wallet and extract some change for this poor fellow. I noticed that no one was dropping any coins into his cup. Then my eyes met his, and I couldn't look away. I couldn't have guessed his age. It might have been anywhere from 40 to 60. He had that weather beaten look of someone who had seen a lot of struggles. His posture and countenance spoke humility and desperation, and my heart melted. I held his gaze as I approached him, wanting to wordlessly convey a message of hope, and acceptance. As I got nearer, his eyes holding mine, he gave a little smile of resignation. "Tough crowd" he said. His demeanor seemed to say "yeah, I'm this desperate. I'm ashamed to be here, but I don't know what else to do." As I moved past him, still meeting his bloodshot eyes, I touched his arm, gave him my best smile, and said "God bless you."

Immediately, I thought to myself "how lame was that? 'God bless you?' Sounded so condescending!" I wished I had at least had a bible tract to give him. Most of all, I wished I had been like Peter and John, when they came across the lame beggar at the temple gate called Beautiful. I wish I had somehow given him what they had given that beggar; healing and deliverance. I wanted so badly to convey that love, that healing, that deliverance that only Christ can give. That love that has been shed abroad in our hearts, that love that is not for us to keep to ourselves, and smugly delight in, but is meant to share with a hurting world, with hurting people like that man.

I can't stop thinking of him. He has been popping into my thoughts since then. Was he not someone's little baby at one time, like the rest of us? Someone's son, perhaps brother, or husband, or father? In different circumstances, he could be my brother, or my son. Is he any less valuable than them? Than me, or any of my friends and loved ones? Of course not. We are all equally valuable to God, and all in need of His grace.

It troubles me that this man, and so many others like him, have come to a place in their lives that they are so alienated from whatever security or relationships that they may have had in the past that they now stand or sit or lie in the street, and beg for money. But the thought that troubles me even more is that they might have no one who cares enough to even pray for them. No one that knows them by name, who lifts them up to the Throne of Grace, begging that God would intervene in their lives, and awaken them to the hope that is in Christ. To me, this is an even greater tragedy than having no home or no money.

So I am going to pray for this man, as often as God brings him to my mind. I have named him "Richard". It seems a noble name to me. Like King Richard, the Lionhearted. But I want him to have a heart that holds the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Maybe you could pray for him too? I know he doesn't deserve it, but then neither did I, and neither did you, deserve all the prayers that might have been said, and are still said, for us. Pray that God will bring someone into his life that will be a Minister of Reconciliation, someone that will bring a message of hope, healing and deliverance. Pray that his heart will be opened to hear it. He is only one man, one soul, but if God saves him, oh, there will be such rejoicing in heaven!


Anonymous said...

I pray that our Lord will take Richard and give him to His Son.

P.S. It would be interesting to know how many professing christians walked past this man. I like Francis Chan's views on this subject.

Maureen said...

Anon, I pray that He does as well.
I haven't heard Mr. Chan's views, but I wouldn't be too hard on those who passed by. I have passed by too, because it is hard to know what to do. The problem is so widespread, and often people feel that to give money would be to enable a drug or an alcohol habit. The best thing to do would be to be prepared, with vouchers or cards for local sandwich or coffee shops. Also, there is a stigma around the homeless, to do with mental illness, and not everyone is prepared to deal with that, once you start up a conversation. Above all, we need God's wisdom, love and compassion, for everyone, no matter what their situation is.