The post below occurred a few weeks ago, but I am now finding time to post it:
Something happened today. It wasn’t exactly something life-altering for myself but for someone else, it was. I’m still trying to figure out why I so desperately feel the need to burst into tears. I mean, I was not physically affected by this but oh, does my heart hurt. I did not even know this man. And yet, it was as if for the briefest of moments, God had made it so that I saw what He sees. I saw a man. A man that had been outside for hours begging for money on the highway. A man that was young, naïve, and hungry. Exactly as I was in that moment. I had been walking from my hotel in search of somewhere to eat, by myself, in a city that is foreign to me. Common sense isn’t always common.
As I passed by him on my way to wherever I was going, we made eye contact. He looked so tired. It made me really sad. I slowly snuck another peek to see someone in their car hand him their half-sipped soda. I wasn’t even thinking of how completely gross it is to actually accept a complete stranger’s drink. The only thought that was running through my mind was “he probably needs some water”. Without pause, I started heading for the gas station. A cop greeted me which startled me a bit as I am not used to seeing many cops guarding gas stations. I’m sure you are now getting the visual clarification that I wasn’t in the greatest of areas. I headed over to the water racks and grabbed two huge waters (I drink a lot of water, okay) and selected a regular sized one for my freeway friend. As I was heading towards the registers to check out, I also decided that I would get him a sandwich. I paid for my things and headed out. I saw this group of sketchy guys eyeing me on my way out so I began to walk faster. Glancing back a few times to see if they were pursuing me, I nearly ran into the man who had been on the freeway. He said hi and smiled and I smiled back. He surprisingly had a very happy, carefree smile, given his situation. I was in the middle of explaining to him that I wasn’t going to give him any money but that I had bought him a sandwich when two cops pulled right up to us. They didn’t even look at me as they grabbed this now incredibly frightened man and threw him up against the car, immediately handcuffing him. The other cop yanked open the police car door and began shoving all of this man’s stuff into the passenger’s seat, as if it didn’t even matter if he possibly damaged one of his things. It took me about three seconds to remember where I was. It had all seemed like a movie, projected in that moment to be unreal. But it wasn’t a movie. It had been someone’s present reality and for me, I felt like nothing more than a foolish bystander that was very much so in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now very embarrassed and in fear of upsetting the police, I turned around and began walking back towards the freeway. Once I was far enough away, only then did I finally look back to see that his lighthearted smile had been wiped completely clean from his face. He stared at me with desperation and a very bewildered look of fear as his head was pushed down into the car. In that moment, I thought for sure I had seen a look that was requesting forgiveness. I found that to be odd since I wasn’t exactly someone he needed to seek forgiveness from. Was I? I walked the rest of the way trying with great ferocity to not shed a single tear, the unopened sandwich still in my hand. I had been too afraid to ask the officer if he could have the sandwich and the water bottle.