A couple of weeks ago, I had a fun idea for a post.
Many of my Facebook friends have been doing the November “30 Days of Thankful” thing where they post a daily status of things they are thankful for. That is very nice and sweet, so clearly I saw a good opportunity to do a snarky “30 Days of No Thanks” post where I come up with 30 things that I am not thankful for (example: runny, stinky blowout poops from my three month old daughter)*.
*And let’s be honest here – I fully reserve the right to do that post next year.
But I have witnessed two things in the last ten days that have changed my mind and made me think that being a flippant smart ass about the numerous blessings in my life is not the way to go this year.
* * *
At the last minute, I decided against going home for lunch. I was craving one of my favorite meals (the cheesy pulled pork with the sweet Thai chili BBQ sauce at C. Berry’s) so I opted to treat myself. After another amazing meal I started walking back to my parking garage. As I approached the corner of 14th & O, I saw a scene that will stick with me for long time.
14th & O is one of the main intersections in downtown Lincoln. Over my 20+ years in town, I’ve witnessed a lot of unique things on that corner: the guitar player who would play the “USA Baby” jingle for a buck, an Native American who enjoying banging on a newspaper box in a non-rhythmic manner, hundreds of overly intoxicated college students, and a couple of dozen homeless guys. And on this day, it was a homeless man at the center of the scene.
When you picture a homeless man in your mind, this guy is probably who you see. He was sitting close to the intersection, leaned up against the aforementioned newspaper box. He may have been holding a cardboard sign, but that also could just be the “homeless guy” stereotype in my mind. I didn’t notice a sign because my eyes were drawn to what was next to him.
Kneeling down next to this man was a woman in a business suit, probably in her mid-40’s. She held one of the man’s hands within her two hands, and her head was bowed as if in prayer. As I got closer, I could hear her quietly praying with this man.
I didn’t hear a lot of what she said – and I did not want to eavesdrop and potentially interrupt them – but I did catch one of her prayerful requests:
“Please keep this man safe and warm and in Your care tonight”.
That is when the moment really hit home. I’ve just finished an $8 sandwich, and was walking back to my car to return to my good job, which allows me to live in a very nice house with my beautiful and healthy family. It was unseasonably warm that day, probably in the mid 50’s, so I didn’t bother putting on any of the warm coats I have.* I knew it would get chilly that night, probably into the lower 20’s, but that didn’t bother me too much because my wife like to sleep with the thermostat at 70.
*Here is a sad piece of perspective: I wanted to write “putting on any of the ___ warm coats I have”, but after five minutes of thought and silent counting, I realized that I don’t even know how many warm coats I have. I’m pretty sure our homeless friend knows: One. And it probably would rank third (or lower) in my coat wardrobe in terms of warmth.
In addition to the kindness of a stranger to offer to pray with (and for) a person in need of help, I was also curious to see his reaction. My thinking is that becoming homeless and having to live on the streets during the fall and winter months would severely test one’s faith in a kind and loving God.
After I crossed the street, I stole a glance over my shoulder. She was still praying with this man. He had now placed his other hand on top of her hand, and he was looking her directly in the eye. As I entered into the parking garage I took one more look – still there, still praying. By the time I got up to my car, she was gone.
But the homeless man was still sitting on that corner.
* * *
The second moment of perspective happened on the day before Thanksgiving. Our boss announced that we could take off an hour or two early to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with our families. I had a couple of last-minute things that I needed from the store, I so headed towards Target.
On my way, I drove past the People’s City Mission. Apparently, they were handing out food and items for Thanksgiving, because there was a line of people wrapped around the building. And this was not a warm day. This was classic late-November Nebraska: grey skies, temps in the upper 20s, and brisk north wind that made it feel much colder.
And yet, I noticed there were lots of young children in this line. Their parent(s) had to choose between making their kid stand out in the cold for an hour or two or not having Thanksgiving dinner – or not eating at all.
It sure made my little shopping trip to get a bottle of wine and a final ingredient for our second dessert seem trivial.
* * *
So if I don’t say it enough (and I’m sure I don’t). I am thankful. I’m thankful to be gainfully employed, to have a beautiful and supportive wife who is an excellent mother, three gorgeous, brilliant, and healthy children. I’m thankful to have family close by and willing to help out when we need it. I’m thankful to be able to have a writing hobby that I enjoy, time to do it*, and many, many people who choose to read it. (Seriously, thank you – your feedback keeps me going and makes me better).
*Even if it is from 11 pm until whenever I fall asleep at the keyboard.
I’m thankful for so many things that I could never, ever list them all.
But since it is one of the aforementioned late night writing sessions, I’m going to go be thankful for my warm bed, soft pillow, and the warm quilt my mom made.