Ben had been homeless for years; a product of a divorce, fired from his construction job at West End Works, with children who didn’t know or want to know him.
The East Side Home Group had been his little place in the world for way too long. It wasn’t much but at least it was a roof over his head, two meals a day and a Sunday sermon with Pastor Orloff giving his usual, “let’s be thankful for the little that we have,” sermon.
Ben never admitted to anyone that he had given up on life, but those around him, sensed that he had, In his mind, there simply was no reason whatsoever, to try anymore. His wife didn’t want anything to do with him and his children didn’t even know what he looked like. They were so little when he left that cold March morning; he couldn’t bare to look at their sleeping faces. It was a memory he pushed from his mind every day.
Being 55 and homeless was wearing him down. The East Side Home Group was run by a bunch of great people but they could never replace the family he once had.
He sat on his cot one cold, February day and searched his mind on how he could have prevented such a tragedy…He loved his wife and children but alcohol had slowly replaced all who were once dear to him.
“Why couldn’t I just stop and ask for help?” Those words rang hollow in that cold, empty room and no one was there to give an answer.
And then something wonderful and unexpected happened. He was out taking his usual walk when he ran across an older woman who was dressed shabbily and talking to herself. She seemed upset so he acted like he didn’t see her as she passed by.
She mumbled, “Cheating me again! That store did it to me again! I will never go in their again!”
As he passed by her she cried, “Isn’t it a cryin shame that these stores around here cheat an old lady?! What do you think of that mister?”
At first he tried to pretend that he didn’t heart her and then he replied, “Yes, some of the stores don’t seem to care about people like you and me.”
“You mean they give you a hard time, too, mister?”
“Sure do. It seems people like you and me are easy targets; they think that they can get by with anything. It’s happened to me many times!”
“Well, you don’t look poor or homeless. I would never guess that of you. Your clothes are nice and you seem educated.”
“Thank you ma’am. But, I’ve been homeless for years. No wife, no kids, no home…nothing! Just like you.”
“Well, I would never have guessed but I’m just like you. No husband, no kids, and no home. I reckon I’ll probably die like this—all alone. You too, huh?”
The words stung him hard and cold and the very thought of being alone all of his life got him to thinking…
“Lady, thank you for those good words! Maybe it’s not too late for me…And, maybe it’s not too late for you. Is your husband still alive?”
“Why yes, but I’ll not forgive him for what he said to me. No I won’t go beggin to have him take me back…”
“Lady, put your pride away and do it, because I’m going to push away my pride and go back to my wife and children. Maybe they’ll forgive me or maybe they won’t. But, if I don’t try, I’ll never know…Take good care, go back to your family and thank you for your words!.”
Well, Ben went back and yes, it took awhile for his family to forgive him, but eventually they did. As for the poor older woman, she’s still on the streets, defiant and willful to anyone who will listen that “she will never forgive her husband and how awful everyone is with her.”
Forgiveness is often a hard thing to do, but oh the wonders and opportunities it can bring!
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