I saw a homeless man guarding the entrance to the Walmart parking lot the other day. I brought him some cold water and a gift card, but I also sat with him and spoke with him for ten–maybe fifteen minutes.
I just got off work so I still looked presentable in my khakis and without my trademark baseball cap. My nose told me that James–he told me his name was James–was probably sweating off a hangover and needed a shave, but he felt human again as someone was willing to listen to his story.
Several people shoved cash into his hand as they passed, and no fewer than five cars opened their wallets to him. It was so unusual that James joked that he needed to keep me around as his good luck charm. I estimate he collected twenty bucks in ten minutes and I’m left wondering if my presence made a difference.
Do people give more if a “respectable” man is in the presence of a homeless man? If so, are they motivated by some collective altruism or is it out of guilt? I don’t know but James didn’t go hungry that night, and he told me that he was going to pool his money with some homeless friends to get a hotel room. Perhaps he did get a room. Perhaps he had a hot bath and enjoyed the a/c for the evening. Perhaps he watched Pawn Stars or Swamp People.
I don’t know what he did that evening, but when we hugged and parted ways, he saw what I saw. I didn’t see a homeless guy or a seedy character I needed to guard against. I saw a man created in God’s image and I hope he never forgets that.