My once homeless friend, "John" nearly died last night. This morning I find myself sitting next to him in the critical care unit. I am so thankful that the call I received about his condition wasn't what it could have been. The Doctor told us that he was lucky to be alive. My heart rejoices that I was able to sit, converse and pray with him this morning.
As his story unfolded, my heart broke as he told me about the encounter he had the night before. "John" said that he was on the streets of Conway trying to flag someone down for help. He was very sick and very scared and finally slumped over in his wheel chair. Yes, my friend is wheel chair bound because his leg has recently been amputated.
Someone pulled up beside him and yelled that he was "pathetic" and "must be drunk" and then drove away. "John" began to cry when he repeated the word "pathetic". His tears become mine as I thought about how panicked he must have been in that moment, reaching out for help and finding hate instead.
John served for seven years in the Air Force in the seventies. He was a firefighter and raised children to serve their country as well. They are both stationed overseas now. He is a hero and a giver. Yet in his time of need, when the driver should have been calling 911, they devalued his humanity and worth. Some stranger decided to throw out a word that hurt his heart more than the blood clots found in his lungs ever could.
When I called my sister and friend Laura to try and put some of this together in my heart, she reminded me of something. That was what Jesus went through. He helped those who hurt him, served those who might break him down, and loved the world that crucified him. As angry and hurt as I was about what happened to my friend, I realized that he and I both were loved by someone who endured more. No matter how much faith in humanity I lost today, I still have a hope. Jesus will never pass me by, for he is the lifter of my heart.
If somehow the driver is reading this, I assure you, my friend "John" is not "pathetic". I am learning that because I was forgiven, I must in turn, forgive. My pastor calls us to be “forgiven forgivers,” just as Jesus said to.
For the person who is reading this and complains that we have too many panhandlers on our streets, know that each one of them have a story, a reason why they fly a sign. A few days ago my same friend was flying a sign so that he could buy a bus ticket for a victim of domestic abuse. He was helping her get to safety.
I rejoice that "John" is in surgery right now, and not laying dead under the overpass. Although my faith in humanity may be a little shaken, my foundation is as solid as ever, for the One that it is built on is ever-faithful.