We usually see him on Wednesdays in the median at Northwest Highway and Preston looking for a handout. I often struggle with the best reaction when solicited on street corners. But, with Richard we’ve come to an agreement. If he’s hungry we get him a burger. Thirsty a bottle of water. A few months ago he wanted something else.
After handing him a sack from Mickey D’s, I asked, “Richard, do you need anything else?” I know his name becuase I asked. He’s a person with a name just like me. I don’t know what landed him in a begging stage of life, but he’s there and right or wrong, is asking for help.
“My wife needs some shoes.” he responded.
“Okay. What size.”
“She wears a 8 and a half.”
“Alright then.” I reply while moving forward as directed by our green arrow.
We couldn’t get them right then, but my passenger rider reminded me the next time we were at the store. “Don’t forget Richard’s shoes. His wife needs shoes. … Remember?!” We searched through the shoes and he picked out a pair for the woman he had never seen, but for whom he had been praying (without my prompting).
Kids are sensitive. Even the hardest hearts seemed to be moved when they realize that the bodies standing in the scorching heat, breaking the law (Dallas has banned panhandling), wearing worn out and smelly clothes, sometimes arguing with themselves are people – with names – and families – and needs. My kids remember them when we drive away.
This passenger seat kid was so excited to take Richard the shoes. Leaving the store, we didn’t drive home, but to Richards spot. He wasn’t there. So, we kept the shoes in the car for next time. The next time came and went as did days, weeks and months. Eventually we took the shoes out of the car and hung them on our coat rack by the front door.
A few weekends ago, we had a Richard sighting. Sad we had taken them out, Slow Walker and I raced home to get the shoes. By the time we got back to the corner, Richard was getting into the bus with his wife. We saw her too! We could NOT believe our luck. A minute earlier and we would have successfully transferred our gift.
Fast forward to last week. Speed Police yells from her perch passenger side. “MOM!! IS THAT RICHARD??!!”
Sure enough, there he was crossing the busy intersection where we were driving by. “DO YOU HAVE THE SHOES?!! she yelled, still excited at the sighting. Speed Police had never met Richard. He was a friend to my piano carpooling crew that did not include this volleyball-playing, tone-deaf, rhythmically-challenged child.
We quickly u-turned, shoes in hand. “THERE HE IS!” she pointed to the man walking by Starbucks. We turned and rolled down the window. Richard was making his way across the street, walking toward another homeless friend.
“Richard!” I yell out the window as we slowed to a stop. “Richard is that you?”
Puzzled, he looked looked at us, then started to walk our way.
“Hey Richard,” now he was standing by the window with his friend looking on. “we’ve been looking for you, man. A few months ago you told us your wife needed shoes. …. Well, here they are.”
He stood surprised. I think touched. “Tell me your name,” he broad-smile directed at Speed Police, which she did. We told him that God loved him, that He cares for our needs and that we felt so blessed to get to play a small role in helping him with his. He gushed a huge thank you then proudly held the shoes up to show his friend as we drove away.
Speed Police looked over at me, a bit flushed, “Mom … I can’t believe how good I feel. It’s almost the best I’ve ever felt.”
I paused to let it sink in, then started down the teachable moment road where we both learned some lesseons. “You bet.” I said. “Helping others is better than anything you could ever do. It makes you feel better than winning any game, making a great grade, gulping some power drink. Nothing compares. In fact, I think we can assume that we will spend eternity doing things just like this… helping each other. That’s what Jesus did every day he walked the earth. It’s what he shared as the greatest command.”
“Yeah.” The kid sat there, basking in a flood of good feelings.
I hoped she would lean into them and never forget. On the days that she struggles with doubts, with low self-esteem, with competitive pressures, with stress – I hope she will remember the feeling of putting someone ahead of yourself and that she will pause long enough to find a need and to fill it.
Might I pause long enough to do the same thing.
Thanks for walking the road with me.