06 November 2009

Missed Opportunities? Entertaining Angels?

Last Sunday, after church, my family and I had to run by the bank to drop off something in the night deposit. It was lightly raining and a tad bit on the chilly side. As we were pulling away from the night deposit, there was a frail looking gentleman in the parking lot motioning to us. We rolled the window down and he motioned with his hand open, saying something about needing to get to the mission downtown, but not having enough money for the bus. We had just left the bank, but only to drop off checks, not to withdraw any cash. My wife rarely if ever carries cash...when she does, she goes through it fast, and so is usually always empty pocketed.

My wife was driving, and she was directly speaking with the gentleman. Her first thought was that he wanted a ride. However, we have a eight person van that is usually filled to max capacity (us plus six kids). My first impression of what he was saying, was that he was asking for cash.

How often are we presented with an opportunity to serve, yet we turn our backs for various reasons. Beggars can be deceptive, there are many out there that are. They want money for drugs or booze; they are scam artists. "Get a job dude, and stop bothering me." How many times have we passed people in need, and not given them the time of day because we were suspicious of their true situation? I know, I will admit, I often act that way.

On this particular Sunday, we acted as usual, cutting him off, saying we couldn't help, and we drove off. It was just habit, an impulse reaction of sorts. I was prepared to hand him a few dollars, because he looked and sounded sincere, however, the window was closed and we drove away before I could act.

As we got back on the road, my wife said to me, he wanted a ride, but we have no room. I said, I think he wanted money for the bus. She said she had no money on her, and we drove away.

All was silent for a few blocks. I know I was thinking in my silence about whether we just blew an opportunity. All I could think of was Hebrews 13:2:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
I assume my wife was also pondering the event. All of a sudden, the silence was broken when she said, "I think we should turn back and help him," to which I said "I do too." It had just hit her...wait...we DO have room in the van. Hard habits are hard to overcome, and for a moment, we had forgotten our eight-seat van does have a spare seat now in our van due to the passing of our son in May. I said, and if it is just money he needs, I have a few bucks on me, which she did not realize.

She immediately turned the van around to go back to offer him a ride downtown or cash, whichever was needed. We drove to the bank parking lot, and he was gone. We drove around the shopping center next to the bank, and he was no where to be seen. After a few moments of looking in all of the direction we thought he could have gone in such a short amount of time, we gave up and got back on our way.

Did someone else give him a ride? Or did he simply vanish?

Anyway, the issue is, we have become so callous towards strangers in need, doubting if there is a need, that we often brush them off without a thought. I hate feeling like that, and hope that the Lord gives me a more tender mind to reach out and assist others whenever I am able. My job is to act, and react, in love, and help others. If they are deceptive, then let that be on their head. Who am I to be the judge and jury over whether they are sincere or not? We do not need the government to help the needy, if we all were just more willing to reach out to them with what the Lord has blessed us with.