The homeless young man I met in a Wegmans parking lot
There are some things in life you cannot explain. Sometimes you meet a person and you wonder;
“did I change their life or did they change mine?”
One afternoon on a very hot summer day I was loading groceries into my car in a Wegmans parking lot when a young man approached me. The funny thing is I never saw where he came from? I had the back door open of my vehicle and I was in the process of placing a 6 pack of paper towels onto the seat when I heard these words;
“Excuse me sir”.
I whipped my head around and saw a thin young man a little taller than me with a back pack. My first instinct was to be startled. Then I replied;
“Yes”? I replied.
“I was wondering if you could spare a dollar so I can by something to eat.”
I turned for a second to close the back door and fit one more item inside.
“Sure. Just give me a moment.”
I closed the back door and turned to him opening my wallet.
“What’s going on?” I asked him as I fiddled through a couple of rolled up bills.
“Well I am homeless and hungry”.
I noticed that he had a faded black AMC (Movie Theater) t-shirt and was carrying a full back pack with a gatorade bottle sticking out a side pocket with a clear liquid. He was unshaven but noticed he had nice teeth? My assumption was that he was probably raised by a decent family who had some money (enough to send him to a dentist) and he either ran away for selfish reasons or had worn out his welcome due to bad choices and had been kicked out. I immediately ruled out a heroin user due to his descent teeth. I began to become less afraid as I made sure to look into his eyes and noticed that shame overwhelmed him.
At first I was going to give him $5 but then decided to give him $20 with a message;
“I want to give you this but I want you to use it for good.” handing him the money.
I reached into my cart and gave him the protein drink and a few protein bars I had not yet put into my car.
“Here. Take these and get some nutrition into your body so you can think clearly and have some energy.”
“Oh no sir. I can’t take that from you”.
He was embarrassed but also his shame turned to gratefulness. He took the items and became emotional.
“Can I give you a hug? I am a little sweaty”.
He stretched his one arm out and I moved in to hug him around his back pack and side.
“Thank you sir. You have been so nice”
I smiled and looked into his eyes to try and see the truth. I believed he was homeless and also believed that he deserved a chance. Everyone does.
“Listen. Do you believe in Jesus? My faith changed my life and if you give yourself to him he will change everything. He did for me and although it appears that I have it all together we all have a story. Your life is like a book and there are many chapters. Do not let one or two chapters define the rest of your life. We all make mistakes. Big ones and little ones.”
He looked down at the ground and paused for a moment before answering me.
“Well it is a little difficult for me. You see I was born into a cult. Both my parents were cult leaders so it is a little difficult to make that connection with God”
I put my hand on his shoulder and told him a I understood but at least asked him to consider it. He nodded his head. I also explained that if he went to any Catholic Church in the area they usually have a food pantry, cloths and means to try and help. Sometimes guidance for shelter. Nate claim to be living out of a car (not necessarily his) in back of a line of stores from where we were standing. The summer was brutal as he explained that temperatures (even at night) makes it hard to sleep. He made it sound as if the car was not running and even if it was he had no money for gas. I reached into my wallet and gave him another $20 and he did not want to take it.
“This is to help you get to a local church”.
He gave me another hug and thanked me. Nate told me that most people would not even spend a moment speaking with him and that he appreciated the time we were speaking.
Most people are scared. They might think this was a set-up and you would distract me while someone else tries to rob me. This is the truth and the reason why most will not help. They are scared. He of course assured me he was not here to do that to me. I had faith he was telling the truth.
As the sun began to roast the both of us I let him know about my nephew who was close to a similar situation as he.
“My nephew was in a similar situations years before where he was a heroin adict and had someone give him a $10 bill with the same advice. Today my nephew is clean 7 years, married with two kids. My nephew went directly to a church and then began his process of getting clean.”
Nate told me that a bus ride was only be a couple of dollars and this money would help him travel to a local church where he promised to start making smart choices.
There are things you do not realize about a homeless person (young or old). He had tried to get a job but with no permanant residence and no cell phone most employers are reluctant to hire. Nate told me he wanted to work and that he is a hard worker but that most will not give him a chance. He needed a shave and as he put it; “A clean shirt”. Most of the time a homeless person has had a relative or friend try and help and/or give them a place to stay only to have broken their promise or abused the privilege. Nate confirmed that he had stayed at his brother’s house for a while and a friend but wore out his welcome. He did not tell me where or if his parents were alive.
“I would like to re-pay you the money you gave me.” Nate requested
“Not necessary. I want you to turn the page on your situation and come back to this parking lot and find me. I am always shopping here. If God wants us to meet again it will happen.”
Part of me wanted to give him my phone number so when he did get a phone he could let me know how he was doing. The other part of me felt that fate brought us together and fate will bring us back. We exchanged a hand shake and I watched Nate walk toward the line of other stores. I have been praying that God would guide him and that Nate was true to his word.
I was conflicted on whether to write this story as the bible tells us to do charity and help others without blowing your trumpet for others to hear;
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
At the risk of contradicting Matthew 6:1–4, This article is meant to inspire and shine the light to others so that they may stop and help others in need.
The following are other verses to live by:
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Although it has only been a few weeks I have not seen Nate and tried looking for him behind the group of stores where he said he was living but did not find him. I think of him everyday and hope to run into him. Before I left I felt strongly that Nate would be a teacher of others and that he would be the one in my position to help those like himself. He made me a promise that he would and I believed him. Nate changed me and I know God will change Nate. All he has to do is ask.
Psalm 38:21–22 — Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour.