A few weeks ago my family headed about an hour away to this small town with adorable boutiques lining the streets. There was a farmer’s market going on, music coming from the speakers, it was a beautiful day. I had been there earlier in the summer with a group of girlfriends and wanted to return to purchase a gift for one of them. Plus, there’s a canal that runs through the town so I thought we could spend some time hanging out there as we aren’t huge shoppers. (Especially boutique shoppers, if you haven’t read my blog before I have 3 children; ages 1, 5 and 7….sounds like fun in a store with a bunch of fragile items packed tightly together right?)
Knowing we would be spending the day with our children, my husband and I planned a picnic near the canal and brought along the kids’ rubber boots and nets in case they could catch a critter. That’s more our kind of day anyway. The girls and I went in to grab the gift I needed, we visited a couple of other shops, stopped at the candy store and then headed to the water. We found a picnic table in the shade and met up with some family and friends to visit.
As we sat and ate, my husband and I noticed a man lying down over on a bench with a bike parked next to him. Clearly, he was either traveling or carrying most of what he owned with him. He had a radio and was relaxing on the bench. My first impression was that he was homeless and it was a scorching hot/humid day and I wished we could help him. Whenever I see someone in a similar situation as this, I always want to help them but I’m at a loss as to how to do it. I don’t have a ton of money, I had some food with me but honestly I didn’t want to offer goldfish and chewed up grapes. And what if I offend someone by offering help? I just never know what to do.
I said a prayer for that man and followed my daughter along the canal to search for turtles. After awhile, I looked over and saw my husband chatting with him. He probably spent over an hour talking with this man and when I glanced over at him I could tell he was intrigued. My husband doesn’t waste his time on things he isn’t interested in, so I was anxious to hear what he had to say when he returned. Finally, he walked over, I smiled at the man and waved and he got in the car. The man had told him all about his life. He had served in the military, had grown children whom he loved very much. He was extremely thankful for all he had and for his life and expressed gratitude for the opportunities he had to serve our country, to raise his family and to live here freely. He reaffirmed to my husband many times that his freedom in this country and spending time with his children were the most important things in life.
We sat there talking about how that man didn’t want our help and as a matter of fact, on that day and all the days since that we have thought about him, he gave something to us. He was completely content and enjoying his life laying on that bench, all he wanted to do that day was listen to the Cubs game. Shame on me for immediately assuming just by looking at him that I was the one who could offer something to him. And even worse, after I made that assumption, I did nothing. Way to go Jami. I literally pretended he wasn’t there. I wasn’t consciously doing that but if I look back and my actions that’s what they showed. I saw a man whom I thought needed help, and I looked away.
In church today our pastor mentioned our “daily bread” and how God provides so much more for all of us than our basic needs and again I thought about our new friend. He was grateful for all he had. If you were to take me and place me in his situation right now, I highly doubt I would be feeling gratitude towards God for my daily bread. But this man truly was thankful.
All he needed that day was the exact opposite of what I did. He needed someone to not pretend he was invisible. Many of the times I looked over I noticed both he and my husband smiling during their conversation. They were chatting like old friends. I hope that my husband made that man feel a bit less invisible that day and that somehow he would know that he has given us such an appreciation for our freedom, family, friends and all that we have been blessed with.
To the gentleman in the park:
If you read this, we appreciated the little time we were able to hear your story and we aren’t counting you out 😉
Thank you for allowing us to learn about your life and giving me the permission to share it here. May we all be more like you.