Sunday, October 07, 2007

Without A Home

I can't get him off my mind...

I felt his presence before I saw him, sitting behind us in the last pew at church this morning. I didn't hear as he silently slipped in, yet I knew he was there.

He was the epitome of a homeless man; disheveled hair and his beard, long..gray..matted. He wore a dirty coat, unnecessary in the lingering Kansas heat and he was bent as if he hadn't the strength or hope to hold him up. I turned slightly and met his eyes. They were tired, lifeless, distant...and he seemed lost in a way that no human should ever be lost. I smiled, mouthing the word, "Welcome" and in return saw the corners of his own raise, his eyes softening. And though the service continued, I could concentrate on little else.

I felt him bow his head in prayer and noticed he sat quietly during the reading of the scripture. He listened as the pianist played during the sharing of special music and at one point, he made his way to the set of pews past the back aisle of the church.

We had to leave before the service was over, due to an engagement in another town. The sermon over, I signaled to the children and we quietly slipped from the pew and out of the sanctuary. I stopped briefly in front of this man and whispered a few words. He partially rose, paying respect to a lady; a gesture he must have learned from someone at some time.

As we left the church my son asked, "Do you know that man, Mom?"
"No, I don't," I told him. In a small community one knows everyone, and homeless people are nonexistent in our safe little world.

We proceeded to the school to pick up some things, then to the gas station up on the highway before making a quick trip home before we had to leave. And all the time I thought of him. My daughter must have been thinking also because on the way home she asked, "What did you say to that man, Mom?"
"I told him that it was nice to have him at church, and thanked him for coming."

It was....and I meant it.

The past few days I have been feeling low because of an opportunity I cannot take. I've been feeling cheated, sullen and on the verge of tears because of things I have to do and things I am unable to do.

Then there was this man...

I was lying in bed tonight, writing letters when my son came in to kiss me good-night. My husband took him back into town this evening for an open gym.
"You know that man from church? Well, we saw him tonight on our way into practice. He was walking south, out of town."

Where did he spend the day? Did someone take him home and feed him dinner, or did he continue to wander aimlessly, searching? And now all I can do is think of him, walking down that highway at night where semi-trucks rush dangerously between the white lines and there are no lights to lead the way.

I pray that he is safe and that somehow, someway his brief stay in a small Methodist church showed him that wherever he is, and wherever he is going, Someone does walk beside him. May he see that light and follow it to higher ground because no one, no where deserves to be without a home.


Mike said...

What a simple and powerfull gesture, to make a person feel welcomed. To love the "unloveable" is one of the many things Christ spoke of while on this earth. Its so healing to do...and yet so many choose to look away.

Your actions were noticed...even though you were not trying to be noticed.

alan said...

I had the delight of driving my grandparents to California the summer after Dottie and I were married; Grandpa had had a stroke and it had gotten to hard for him to travel by train after 5 years of it. He had me stop several times to pick up older guys who weren't hitching, but walking. Each time he gave them money and talked to them a bit. I don't know whether it's something that came from the Depression, or from being an engineer and finding them in "the yards" all the time.

You are truly an amazing woman, my friend! A heart as big as Kansas, and a soul to match!


clew said...

Hi Lori

As always, you blessed my heart with this story. I often see a homeless looking man (disheveled, always in the same clothes) at my own church, and have wanted to speak to him but havent because he always tends to be on the other side of the sanctuary from me. Next time I see him, I'll make my way to him. :)

Miss you - so glad we're friends! xxxooo

Mrs. Salty said...

Lori, you showed true Christian love to the homeless man.
We need more people like you.

Lori said...

By speaking to this man, I did nothing extraordinary. To NOT speak would have been cruel and rude. He was a fellow traveler on the same brief path as I for just that moment in time. I wrote this to remind myself not to feel down when things I've dreamed of do not come to pass, and to be thankful for the blessings that are taken all too much for granted.

I still wonder where he is...

Carmi said...

As long as there are people on this planet who question why the homeless are invisible in our modern society, there is hope.

You've brought to mind my own photographic journeys over the past couple of years. You've reminded me that it's OK to struggle with an issue that doesn't seem to offer easy answers. Thank you for sharing such compassion and learning: