Remember my goal for this year? Refusing to do nothing. I’ll get to Part 4 of our story some other day. Today, I want to talk about refusing to do nothing.
There is a man in our neighborhood named Edward. Edward is older and, from what we can tell, he is mentally ill. He has a shopping cart full of belongings that he struggles, doubled-over, to push up and down the sidewalks. Often, he wears a pair of shorts over a pair of jeans, piling on what seems to be his entire wardrobe. Edward is one of the possible 9,000 homeless people here in Central Florida.
We first noticed Edward early one morning after we had moved in. Tornadoes had been sighted a few miles from our apartment, and we were awake and watching the radar to see if we should head to the basement. As the winds died down and the rain stopped and the dark clouds lifted, a beautiful morning dawned. I looked out the window and saw Edward struggling to push his cart across the street and onto the sidewalk. We had weathered out the storm safe and dry inside our apartment, listening to the winds shake the windows. Where had this man been, I wondered. Where had he weathered the storm? Had everything he owned gotten wet? I cried as I watched him push his cart.
After that, we saw Edward nearly every time we left our apartment. He was hunkered down in the park smoking a pipe, stretched out on a park bench taking a nap, squatted down on a curb doing nothing at all. My husband and I both felt such grief, such a burden over this man. We wanted to do something, but we felt so small and helpless. We prayed for God to show us what to do.
One day, my husband and I both had the same idea — we could feed him something. Mother Theresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” We cannot help all the homeless people in Central Florida, but we can do something for this one man God has placed in our path.
So, my husband had to run an errand at lunch-time and I packed a lunch for him to eat on the way. But our Father knew I wasn’t packing that lunch for my husband. I packed it for Edward. Just as Patrick was starting to eat the sandwich, he saw Edward sitting on a curb. Of course, Patrick gave him the whole lunch. And that began our ministry to this one homeless man.
A few days later, Patrick was again going to run an errand during lunch. This time, I packed two lunches. My 3 year old Jackson helped me. A ham and turkey sandwich, a baggie of potato chips, an apple, some homemade cookies. We put it in the paper bag and prayed together for this man — for the food to nourish his body but also to nourish his soul, for him to see the love of Christ in our small act of service, for him to know that he is loved and cherished and not overlooked. Patrick gave him the lunch that day and learned his name. Edward. Now, we could pray for him by name.
Since then, we have given several lunches to Edward. On Election Day, I packed a lunch for Edward before we left home to vote. We didn’t see him on our way to the precinct, but we prayed we would find him on the way home. We were determined to drive around and look for him if we had to. As we neared our apartment, I spotted him crouched on a curb on a side street.
As Patrick slowly walked up and called his name and offered him our lunch, we saw that Edward was about to eat raw chicken. He had two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and held one up to show Patrick that he already had a lunch to eat. My sweet husband encouraged him to eat our lunch instead. And after Patrick got back in our car, we prayed together that he would have a moment of lucidity and throw the chicken away or that God would protect him from the dangers of eating raw meat.
I cannot explain to you how my heart hurt for him. Here was a man, a man made in God’s image and loved by the Father, a man of great value to our Savior, and he was sitting on a curb about to eat raw meat like some sort of animal. I felt the weight and grief of the effects of sin on this world. It is because of sin and a brokenness in God’s relationship with people and all of creation that people are left alone and poor and without a home. How it must break my Father’s heart to see a person He knit together in His very own image huddled on a curb ready to eat raw meat. I sobbed.
Later that evening, God gave both my husband and me the opportunity to see Edward up and about, seemingly healthy and suffering no ill effects from consuming raw meat. How good of our Lord to show us that He answered our prayers. Either Edward did not eat that chicken or God protected him from food poisoning.
I know we are not solving all of Edward’s problems. He is still homeless. He also is apparently still mentally ill. We have not given him much. But we’ve done what we could. We are doing what we think the Holy Spirit is leading us to do. With great joy and love we pack one lunch at a time for Edward. And we pray for him by name, knowing that our Father knows Edward’s name. We want to feed Edward physically, but we really want to feed him emotionally and spiritually. We want Edward to know that, though he is poor and homeless, he has not been forgotten or discarded or overlooked. He matters. He is loved and known and pursued by Yahweh, the God who gave him breath.
One lunch. That’s all I’m doing. That’s all I can do. Some bread, some ham, some turkey and cheese. A handful of pretzels. A banana. A muffin. That’s it. But I’m trusting God to take my meager offering and use it for His glory in Edward’s life.
I cannot feed a hundred people, but I can feed Edward.
No, I’m not changing the world. I’m not ending homelessness or hunger. But I am refusing to do nothing. One lunch at a time.