This is from April Terry.
On Saturday morning, my seven year old and myself pulled into the parking lot at a local business office to attend my son’s 9:00 am music class. Usually, he and I get there fifteen minutes early and we chat for a bit with the instructor, who also gets there early.
This morning, however, there wasn’t a car in the parking lot and alongside the door was a homeless man. He was fairly young, in his forties I’d say, and he had a beer in his hand wrapped up by a brown paper bag.
A shopping cart was in front of him with a large duffle bag filled with clothing, and his left leg had a brace around it. I sat momentarily in my van wondering if I should get out, but I have always felt that my life shouldn’t be ruled by fear. It’s difficult, though, because it wasn’t just myself, it was my seven year old that I had to think about
I knew that the wise and safe thing to do would be to drive away and come back later, but I also knew that if that man needed spiritual counseling, he wouldn’t get it from watching my van drive away. So, I took a deep breath, and faced my fear and I got out and started toward the front door.
Immediately, the man spoke up, “I’m just going to finish my beer and then I’ll be out of here,” he said. It was clear that he had been chased away from a few buildings.
“No, problem,” I replied. I tried not to act nervous, and put on an air like it was the most normal thing in the world for someone to be drinking beer at 9:00 in the morning. Of course, the front door was locked, which was unusual, so there I was forced to sit and wait until the teacher came.
My seven year old, of course, was oblivious to any possibility of danger. He didn’t seem to notice him or me. He was much more intent on climbing a rather large nearby rock. The man started to talk about how he had just been evicted.
He started trying to sell me electronic items and other things, but I kindly tried to let him know that I didn’t need anything like that. I didn’t really know what to say to him, but I stood there and silently asked God to protect us and I waited. I was waiting for an opening to bring up God.
His name was Gerald, he told us. He seemed kind and he was well-mannered. He told me that he would go and catch the train as soon as he could round up some money. Frankly, I was a little grateful that at the moment I didn’t have even a dollar on me. That way, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty if he asked for money, but he never did ask. I guess I stood there still waiting for an opening that never came.
Then, two more cars drove up and Gerald got up from his seat and started to walk away.
“God bless you, Gerald. We’ll be praying for you,” I called out to him as he left the parking lot. He thanked me and continued on.
I couldn’t get Gerald out of my mind. During my son’s entire hour of music, all I could think of was Gerald. I prayed a little for him, but I felt funny about the whole experience. Why hadn’t I been able to talk openly to him about God? Why hadn’t I taken the opportunity that God had given me?
Had I blown it totally? Had I done something unsafe? Had I done the right thing? What had been the meaning of that meeting? What had been the point?
I can’t know what the purpose was, but I can tell you that more than twelve hours later, as I tucked my seven year old into bed that night, he said, “Mom. Don’t forget to pray for Gerald.”
“That’s right,” I said, “We do have to pray for Gerald.” And so, there we were, a mother and her son, with heads bent, praying for a man we had only met for fifteen minutes and maybe that was the purpose. Maybe the purpose was a test, a moment to see if I would take the opportunity, maybe it was to see if I could overcome my own fear and step out on the limb for Christ, maybe it meant more than any words that I could’ve said about Christ. It was fifteen minutes of wordless companionship, something that a homeless man probably doesn’t get often.
I don’t know what those fifteen minutes meant to Gerald, but I know what they meant to me. To me, they meant that I could choose to sit in a safe van for fifteen minutes or I could take a chance at sharing Christ.
When I returned to the class, the instructor said that she had taken another entrance because of Gerald, but I didn’t. I stood next to Gerald and I promised to pray for him, and my seven year old saw that about me and understood it. In that fifteen minutes, I handed down a legacy to my only son that hopefully will give him the courage to face the unknown someday.
Part of me still feels that I failed Gerald, but part of me is grateful at how far I have come. It was only Christ who empowered me to step out of the van, and maybe the next time I will be able to ask Gerald if he knows the Christ who would give me that kind of courage.
April, thank you for being transparent and helping us see that OA’s aren’t always easy.
August 9th, 2006 · 9 Comments
Categories: OA Stories