One thing I love about going to Philadelphia to serve the homeless is you don’t know what God is going to do while you are there. Some nights, you might meet 30 people who are looking for sandwiches and coffee while nights like tonight, you might only meet five people – and that is okay. That was our experience tonight. We a small group, we traveled to Philadelphia to serve the homeless. Somehow, I ended up being the only guy in the group. I don’t have a problem with that at all but I would have to say that was the first time that has ever happened. What I like about having a smaller group is that it causes us to bond together a little more. When we have a ton of people, we are often scatterbrained and unfocused at times, creating more chaos than we want.
As we arrived at Love Park, there were only three guys there, all whom we had never seen before. But, for some apparent reason, they knew us and somehow knew we were coming with coffee and a bunch of paper brown bag lunches. One of the guys I met there was Bill. He said the main reason we have not seen him before was due to his hospital appointments. He apparently has diabetes and has needed several appointments lately because of certain medical issues that surround his current needs. With him, Jim and another guy talked amongst themselves about the weather and the election. Bill is looking to move back to Florida and be a cutter (painter person type job). They apparently pay great money down there and were only up here for a short spell to enjoy the city life. He had grown tired of it though and was ready to go back to Florida within the next couple of weeks.
We asked these guys where we should go, having at least another 15 lunches in our bags and two hot containers of coffee to share. They said to go over near the Subway and see if anyone was over there. Most people wouldn’t be they said, because of the incidents that have occurred over the past couple of weeks of people getting jumped or even killed in the subways. We went over there anyway to see if anyone was downstairs and would like something to eat.
When we went downstairs, we saw an older man in a wheelchair, going through a McDonalds logo trashcan. As we offered him something to eat, thinking he was looking for food, he just looked up at us and said, “Not hungry man – I am looking for something to go to the bathroom in. See they locked the doors to the bathroom and I need to do my thing – Know what I am saying?” I did. Unfortunately, we were not prepared to help this man out and he went on his way, looking through the other trashcans for something to “do his thing in.” Seeing that there was really no one downstairs, we decided to walk a couple of blocks over to the library. Looking at our watches though, it was 9:00 and thought instead that we would take another route to our car and pass out lunches to those we saw on our way back.
One man was talking to himself as he passed us. He was a taller man with gray hair. Seeing that he was homeless, we handed him a lunch and he just smiled, showing us he had no teeth to speak of. We continued walking. About another fifty feet later, we saw a ridiculously huge rat run from a trashcan, across the walkway in front of us, into a pile of bushes. That was not the first time I had seen such a thing. Nevertheless, it freaked me out – I am not a rodent fan at all.
As we were almost to our car, we saw a woman named Susie who was visibly tired of her day’s journey. As we offered her some food and coffee, three business people walked by and watched us as we gave her something to eat and drink. I do not know what they said to one another as they walked by us, but I could sense that they thought we were doing something wrong. But, trying to avoid any eye contact with Susie or us, they quickly walked past us to their cars and drove away. Susie was so thankful for such a simple act of love, that she gave us a hug and wished our family’s health and joy. That was the best thing anyone could have said. It was truly a beautiful expression.
Over the past several months, I have been going to the city to hang out with the homeless. I don’t know why I keep going back. The more I go, the more I feel compelled to go again to minister to these people who have been deemed “the untouchables” of our city. I love them though – all of them. And they need someone to love them – so I go and do what I can to be Jesus to them. Hopefully it means something to them as much as it does to me. It is truly an awesome blessing and joy.