I have always been torn on the topic of homelessness, not really knowing how to extend a hand to “those” people, asking myself, What would Jesus do? Recently, I was given the opportunity to discover the answer to that question.
I was leaving Books-a-Million after gathering with one of my writing groups, and a man approached me. He handed me a poem and said he had written it and would recite it to me if I would like. I admit, it was a well thought-out executed plan, loitering outside a bookstore with promises of reciting a poem to those who more than likely appreciated things like poetry.
“Yes, I would like that,” I said, genuinely. I wanted to hear his voice.
As he proceeded to share his words, I allowed myself to be present in his space, and listened. There was a word in this man’s poem that I had just talked about in my writer’s group five minutes earlier, as well as throughout the week with several of my friends. The word is “courage,” a word I have intimately walked with these past two years.
Its root, cor, is Latin, and means heart, or whole-hearted living, something I had discovered the previous week from Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. It’s pronunciation, as in the word courage, is the same pronunciation as my maiden name, Kerr. So, as I stood outside, in the heat, next to my car, listening to this man recite his courageous poem in the parking lot, I asked myself again, What would Jesus do?
This was my answer: He would treat this man as a human being with respect and dignity, this man who had a name. I gave Raymond my full attention, feeling and extending compassion, and believing he, like me, was created by God.
I asked Raymond when he finished reciting “His Awesome Love,” if he had served in the military. He had. Vietnam, and rattled off several places that were as foreign to me as the war itself.
I knew he could have been making up everything he spoke, including the fact that he had written his beautifully recited poem. And it was beautiful. But it didn’t matter. What if he wasn’t lying? That didn’t seem to matter either. All I knew was that I felt Jesus standing before me.
I gave Raymond some cash. And was touched by his presence.
Disclaimer: I am not advocating to always give money to the homeless or to engage with strangers. However, in this particular situation at this particular moment, I felt led to be still and listen, and to ultimately give.