By: Pastor Josh Droke
When we introduced the blessing bags, we asked that (once you handed yours out), you consider sharing that story with others.
Whether it was amazing or awful, scary or easy, it’s great to hear about the experiences of others.
So, with that in mind, here’s my story:
One day I decided I wanted cheap, questionable-taste-quality food for lunch, so I drove to Taco Bell. As I pulled up to the stop light to turn right into the Taco Bell parking lot, I saw a middle-aged white man in a heavy coat, standing on the grass beyond the sidewalk, his backpack by his feet, holding a cardboard sign saying he was looking for work. He was the first homeless person I had seen since I had grabbed a blessing bag, and I figured there was no time like the present.
I am by nature an introvert, though, and would rather just live and let live, so it took a few seconds to talk myself into it. I grabbed the blessing bag from the passenger side floorboards and strolled up behind him on the little hill of grass. “Sir?” I said, “would it be okay if I gave you some socks and a snack? Would that be helpful?” I held out the bag a little awkwardly, hoping I hadn’t offended him or anything. He shrugged, smiled, and thanked me as he took the bag. I shook his hand, told him my name, and he introduced himself as Jerry. I said, “Nice to meet you… would it be okay if I bought you lunch?” I asked as much out of guilt as charity… I knew I would feel bad buying myself some warm food while he stood on the corner.
We went into Taco Bell (he assured me that was fine). I don’t think he’d ever been in one before. I helped him order. The girl behind the counter asked “Is this for here or to go?” and my introvert-ness overcame me and I said it was to go. But while we waited for our food and sipped our sodas we sat in a booth and chatted. Turns out Jerry is a handyman, and has worked for Cowlitz-area contractors for 20 years so labor for them. He said summer jobs weren’t as numerous as he’d hoped and totally dried up as winter rolled in. He and his wife of 30 years couldn’t pay rent anymore, so they ended up on the street. His wife is living with her mom in Astoria while Jerry tries to find work. When I talked to him, he’d been couch surfing for about a week, trying to make connections through his contacts to find work. He’d noticed the guys out holding cardboard signs and thought he’d give that a shot. I met him on his 3rd day of doing that, and he was grateful for “the first warm meal in a week.” When our food was ready, I shook his hand, asked if I could pray for him, and then did so. I stood up, picked up my food, said good-bye, and left.
As I drove away I kicked myself a little for not telling him about our church, that it’s a great place to find more loving people and (just as important) hope. How did I forget that? And yes, I’m cynical enough to know he may have made up the whole story, but I do pray Jerry is finding work, encouragement, and hope. And maybe next time I get the chance to buy somebody lunch, I’ll be brave enough to sit and eat with them, too.