It makes me sad each time I spot a figure standing on a street corner with a sign that reads "Homeless and Hungry. Anything helps." My heart breaks into pieces when the figure I see is young, a teen, perhaps, whose circumstances have shoved him onto a street corner in the hopes of finding the means to eat and survive that day. So often I watch car after car pay them no attention, as if there was no one there at all. I give some money when I can, but often lately I just don't have it, and I began shifting my gaze away until I passed by. The heartache did not go away, it was only joined by a lump of guilt that started in my stomach, crept up my throat and finally stung my eyes with tears.
And then I met Xavier. I had some cash that day, and when I rolled down the window to hand it to the young man standing there, I was struck by the handsome 17-year-old face that greeted me. He was very polite, clearly deeply appreciative. I told him my name and asked him his. "Xavier," he said, "It's Xavier." The urge to talk to him became stronger, and now, with tears streaming down my face, I apologized and told him it was very difficult for me to see our kids standing on street corners. "What brought you to this point?" I asked him, and he then shared with me his story of a dad that left when he was a baby, and a mom whose life was overrun by her drug use, who rarely even acknowledged his existence. "I cannot change her, but I know I don't want that for my life. I had to get out and find something better, even if it's hard for a while." He spoke calmly, yet with passion, and I could see very clearly this boy had vision and had made a very hard decision. We spoke for a few more minutes, and I confirmed he did have a place to sleep at night. I told him to never give up, that no matter how difficult things were now, God was there, and to talk to Him, and to NEVER GIVE UP!
I have Xavier's name on a sticky note on my desk, because it was the first homeless person's face that I had a name for. I wanted to make sure that Xavier stayed in my thoughts and prayers, and I made a personal commitment to ask the names of the figures on street corners from now on. Each one deserves to at least be recognized as a human being with a name.
Now, it sounds like my story ends here, but it doesn't. You see, I had to run an errand earlier today, and as I was leaving the parking lot of my bank to head back home, I saw a figure in a hooded coat braving the now-heavy snow, standing on a street corner, holding the all-to-familiar sign. I had just discovered that my checking account was in the red, so I had no money to give him, and I started to cry. My home is only a few minutes from that street corner, and as I pulled into my driveway realizing that I was hungry, I knew that there was no way I was going to get any food down until the man on the corner had lunch too. I made him some sandwiches, grabbed a couple of oranges and Capri Suns, and headed back out. I parked, and as I got out with the meal that I had made, I recognized the face. "Xavier?" Upon hearing his name, he recognized me and gave me a huge hug. I told him that I was struggling financially, and had no money this time, but I had made a quick lunch. He was taken back, and then hugged me, thanking me. He then told me that he was alright. He still had a place to sleep, would have his GED soon, and was doing ommunity service for the time being. His smile was so genuine that it made me smile too. "I am so proud of you!" I told him. "I'm not going to give up," he told me, and at that moment three things became very clear to me: one, this young man was going to go very far; two, he had come into my life for a reason, and three, God had pushed me to go back to bring the young man on the corner lunch. He speaks to us about loving one another and lifting each other up in so many ways, and He knew that I carried Xavier in my heart ever since I first met him. I told Xavier that I was proud of him, gave him my cell number, and asked him to please call me when his GED is completed, because I want to congratulate him. I knew then that I would know Xavier for a long time. I thanked God as I drove away for sending me back out into the snow.
We all have to decide how we are going to respond to the street-corner people. Many times, for one reason or another, we won't have anything to give--or will we?