The Kid With The Cardboard Sign
I told my husband I needed a break. A mommy break.
Sometimes that means locking myself in my room with music playing and punching out words on my laptop, or enjoying time to dive into a good book. Other times it means wandering through TJMaxx with a coffee in hand. Sometimes I spend an hour browsing and walk out with nothing. Often I walk through the home decor sections and get ideas for my own space.
On this trip I exited happily with purchases in hand, but something entirely unexpected happened.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye as soon as I stepped out the door.
He made a comment and I turned to lock eyes with him. “Homeless living 101” probably taught him the power of eye contact. I turned my head and kept walking to my car, along with the five people who walked out ahead of me.
But in my gut I knew this was a moment. A test. An opportunity. An open door. I stopped in the middle of the parking lot, grabbed my wallet from my purse and pulled out all of the cash. Then I turned and walked back to him. I couldn’t even read through the entire cardboard story because the tears threatened to fall after the first three lines.
Homeless. Yes, it looked like it.Hungry. He looks like he needs a meal.Need money for a bus ride home.Where’s home? I wondered.
I met his eyes for the second time that day. He was a kid. Maybe 18 or 19 years old. When I thrust my handful of cash into his open palms, he looked down at the bills and then up at my face with tears filling his tired eyes. He choked a “thank you” and I mumbled “be blessed” because that’s all I could say before the dam of tears broke.
I turned and walked to my car quickly. As I closed the door, thunder cracked above me and the black clouds opened, dumping rain. And at the same moment my heart burst wide open and tears came in sobs.
I had no idea what that kid would do with the money. And while that had been my concern in the past, today it didn’t matter. If it were my daughter asking for bus fair money to get home, would I not want someone to extend her kindness? And a couple dollars?
Whether his story was true, or whether his need was real did not matter. Regardless of what happened next, what he did withmy money, I knew I had done the right thing. I responded to the tug that I felt my heart. I listened to the voice that prompted me.
Honesty, I didn’t do anything crazy or sacrificial. What I had in my wallet was equal to what I spend on weekly Chick fila dinners for our family. Truthfully, I had just spent many times that amount in the store I just exited.
The dollar figure didn’t matter. Neither did what happened to it. What mattered is that I did it. God asked. My heart responded. And in doing so, my heart broke for that young man, and it also drew closer to Jesus. Truly, it was the highlight of my whole day. It is more blessed to give than receive.
And I know the opposite of the elation I felt all day, because a couple of months ago I was in a similar situation and it didn’t go down the same way. I didn’t step up. On that day I turned my head. I cast judgement. I made assumptions. The moment passed. And I lived under the shadow of that guilt the rest of the day.
The amount doesn’t matter. The one who receives isn’t the only recipient. When we give to others, when we open our hearts, our wallets, our calendars, we are blessed in unbelievable ways!
I encourage you to listen for those whispers in your heart this week. Whether in crazy challenges, or simple steps. Be willing to walk through the doors of opportunity and watch what happens inside your own heart, and all around, when you are act on those heart twinges.
Especially when they are written on the front of a cardboard sign.