“Be a better person today than you were yesterday.” This is my new mantra. It’s similar to starting a journey of 1,000 miles with a single step. Every inch leads us to greater heights.
With this in mind, I have been striving to improve my spiritual life. My current endeavor is to become in tune to the Lord speaking to me. I’ve been asking for guidance to do His will. “Please lead me,” I keep requesting.
Then I saw a Facebook post. It was the kind that you normally flick past, but I stopped to read it. “Your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting.”
My mind had been churning on this topic since my husband and I read the familiar words from Matthew 25:35 “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Comments people made on the Facebook post focused on helping the downtrodden homeless or panhandlers.
I have always tried to be generous with donations, supporting many charitable organizations, including the church. For a time, I assisted my church ministry in feeding the homeless in downtown Tampa. But one thing I have tended NOT to do is hand cash to people on the street. But the post got me thinking. Was I missing out on an opportunity?
The following morning while I took my shower, my thoughts drifted to the possibility of helping individuals on the street in my own community. But there aren’t any, I told myself. Then I remembered the guy who hangs out by Publix – the local supermarket. He’s not always there, but we’ve passed him many days on our way to the store. He doesn’t extend his hand to the passing cars and he doesn’t even post a sign asking for money. He just hangs out in the strip between Publix and Burger King.
Am I supposed to help him? I wondered. In the blink of an eye, a plan solidified. We were facing our first cold spell of the mild Florida winter. Anyone outside would certainly need more protection as the mercury dipped toward freezing. That red blanket from Massachusetts. That soft, fluffy layer of warmth had brought such comfort during frigid New England winters, but it became useless in our current Florida climate. It sits in the guest closet – a worthless dust-collector.
But the blanket would be very helpful if you were living outside during the cold snap. That man at Publix popped to mind.
“Really?” I said aloud, to no one but myself. Was I supposed to offer that man my blanket? I didn’t know whether it was my foggy morning-brain haze or a divine inspirational nudge.
“OK,” I said and quickly ended my shower. I glanced at the clock. I had twenty minutes.
I ran to the coffee pot and brewed a single serving into a “to-go” cup and added creamer and sugar, assuming the sugar would help a cold body stay warm.
I grabbed the fluffy red blanket from the linen closet and with each passing moment, my plan felt more and more like a silly expedition. Was I being ridiculous? I considered calling it off, but knew I’d always wonder, so I forged ahead.
“Come on, Punkie,” I said, using a pet name for my dog. She’d been tailing me as I rushed back and forth, knowing something wasn’t normal.
I lifted my ten-pound guard dog into the seat and threw the blanket in the back. I placed the coffee cup into a holder. I felt the cool forty degree air rush into the garage as I opened the door. Forty degrees doesn’t sound terribly cold, but I’m guessing that people who sleep outside have a different perspective.
My little passenger and I zipped the couple miles to the parking lot just as the sun was beginning to light our way. “Do you think he’s there?” I asked her. She stared at me with big brown eyes.
“Alright, here we go,” I told her as we reached the parking lot. “Keep your eyes peeled,” I instructed. I slowed the car as we approached the mystery man’s normal hangout.
I didn’t see him. Perhaps in the cold, he tucked back toward the bushes to break the wind. I scanned further back at the bushes. Nothing. As we creeped onward and around the back of the store, I realized the further I got from that spot, the more unlikely I would be to find him.
Finally we reached the end of the complex and I broke the news to the dog. “He’s not here, Punkie.” And after the initial sting of having wanted to help and feeling silly for driving through a parking lot with a blanket and cup of coffee for no reason, I quickly shrugged that off.
“You know what, Punkie?” I asked my little sidekick. “This is even better. It means he had a place to be on a cold winter night.”
As we headed back home, I sipped on the coffee and wondered if I’d done the right thing. Two distinct words sprung to me as an answer, convincing me to add more random acts of kindness to my daily routine.