how do i know he was homeless?
he was dirty, his clothes ill fitting. he had the marks of drug abuse. the drawn skin, toothless, gaunt face. hollow cheeks. malnourished.
all the signs were there.
"Ma'am? Could I rake your yard for a dollar? I'm awfully hungry."
"No, thank you," I say.
he turns to go. i can see the disappointment on his face.
in one hand is a rake that has seen better days. it is missing several tines and my guess is that he pulled it from someone's trash with one goal in mind: earn some money.
in the other hand is a plastic grocery bag filled with odds and ends. i can see a margarine container, other plastics and some paper goods.
"But can I get you something to eat?" I ask gently.
in one arm i am holding my 6 month old. He smiles at the baby and says, "Yes, Ma'am."
"Wait here, I will be right back."
i scramble around the kitchen looking for things to put in a plastic grocery bag. we are nearing our regular trip to the grocery store, so the pickin's are slim.
but not as slim as his.
i grab two pieces of fruit, granola bars, cereal bars, a plastic spoon and the last can of soup with a pull top lid. i know he will have to eat it cold, but somehow, i don't think he will mind. i want to give him more, but somehow i am not sure what else to put in, and i am afraid he will leave without it if i take too long.
"Mommy, why are you putting that food in a bag?" my oldest asks.
"Mommy, who is that man on the porch? Why is he so dirty?" the 5 year old asks.
i go to the door and open it, he is still standing there.
i hand him the bag. "It isn't much." I say, apologetically.
"That's OK, Ma'am. Thank you."
and then he gives me a blessing of sorts. it is his way of paying me for the food.
"May you always have money to buy food. May your children do well in school. May they grow up to make lots of money so they can take care of you. May you always have enough money to pay the bills. May you always have good health."
"God bless you" I say. tears are now in my eyes.
He shuffles off the porch.
in his blessing was his story. at least a piece of it. he ran out of money to pay bills. perhaps that is how he became homeless. maybe he lost his job first. he doesn't have money to buy food and so he has to go house to house begging for work and a dollar here and there.
if he was scamming me, i don't care. he was obviously hungry, and so i did for him what i could. in my mind i knew i wasn't going to give him money. but i could give him food.
and now i can pray for this nameless man who came to our door. and i can explain to my children just a small piece of how good we have it. and how bad it is for others.
i wish i could have taken his picture for you.
i wonder if he will come back.
i am starting a list of items i could get and have ready if the opportunity ever presents itself again.
and i am humbled by humanity.