Today, I found someone in my den.
While climbing into the ol' Tracker, I noticed what I at first thought was a construction worker, sifting through the waste bin. Ass end up in dirty jeans, he didn't notice me or my pimpin' ride. He was entirely too busy scavenging for cans, which, once found, he would then place into one of two bags he had for the purpose.
I'm often slow on the uptake, but I realized then that this person was homeless, and likely collecting cans to trade for cash. He might even have been looking for something to eat.
I got in my car.
I backed up to leave.
And I couldn't.
Here was a person, sifting my trash for remnants of things I'd deemed inconsequential enough to throw away. Here was I, on my way to a job that affords me food from a store.
My conscience wouldn't let me leave. My faith wouldn't forgive it. Neither would my heart.
"Hey, sir, do you need any help?"
"I don't want your money," came the reply. He said it with his hands in the air, as if caught. As if he were being arrested.
My heart pounded in my chest.
"Alright...Well, are you hungry?"
"I have money," he repeated it. "I have money." And he took from his filthy pocket a wadded green of some denomination. "I can just...I'll buy my own."
I didn't cry. I am now, but I didn't then. Crying wouldn't have afforded me what I desperately wanted in this moment.
I repeated my offer, this time with specifics. Fruit. Granola. Anything I had that would be easy for him to carry.
Again, he declined.
He approached the car; I did not back away. I thought about it, but I didn't.
He offered to give me his wadded bill - likely the only money he had - for a shower. "That's the hardest part about being homeless," he said. He offered to clean my bathroom for me.
He told me his name was Lawrence.
I lamented then, as I do now, that I could not - or did not - give Lawrence a shower. I feel guilt over it even as I type. Instead, I gave him the name and number of my landlord, a man I knew to be sympathetic to those in need. I told Lawrence my landlord had empty apartments; apartments where he could shower, unfettered.
I told Lawrence my landlord was always on-site in the morning. That he should be there soon.
I looked Lawrence in the face again, ashamed that I would open my wallet and my pantry, but not my home, and I started to leave. But Lawrence wouldn't let me go.
Instead, he reached around his neck and offered me one of his few earthly possessions - a beaded, wooden necklace with a carving of Africa.
It looked like a Rosary.
I was near tears now.
But he insisted.
My friends, I ask you - and I think about this often - who are we to overlook these people? To turn away because it is uncomfortable or to lock the doors from fear?
Is a Lawrence somehow less than?
His Rosary around my neck hangs heavy like a cross...
Matthew 25:34-36 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."