Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares Hebrews 13:2
I used to see a dirty and ragged man sit at the light where I turned onto the freeway on one of the many routes I took to work back when I lived in the city for a while. I couldn’t say he was an old man, neither could I say he was young.
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He had the look of another place.
It was easy to see that he was without home or without food and without the comforts that so many of us take for granted. And there he would sit and wait upon the kindness of strangers, the bare soles of his feet worn black and hard from wearing no shoes.
Many drivers would speed by him in the hopes that he hadn’t seen – that they had seen him. It was as if they acknowledged his presence, something was wrong with them, because they gave nothing. If they acted like they hadn’t seen him – they could deny he was there.
I know because I pretended that I hadn’t seen him too.
He never asked for money. He didn’t carry a sign. He just sat at this light, at this median in the road with his head bowed, heavy with thoughts unknown to any but himself.
Sometimes I would drive a different way, because I had nothing to give or I felt guilty because I was being selfish, clinging to the change for my Starbuck’s Venti Latte.
And then I couldn’t stand it any more. This man, this solitary person, this being that had the look of another place, stayed in my soul, quietly, hovering. It was if something was telling me that I must give what I could to this weary soul.
I made the decision that day to drive this route, and no matter what anyone thought, I could no longer drive by this being without giving something. I dug down deep and laid the change upon the passenger’s seat and rushed to greet him, full of myself.
He was not there.
And so, when days passed and I took that route again and again, I made sure I always had change. Sometimes I would come with my hands full of my gift, this token, this toll I would gladly pay knowing that I had made a difference.
I would reach my hand out the window and his would meet mine in mid-air. He would say thank you every so quietly and humbly and briefly look into my eyes with warm brown eyes.
He had the eyes of a child; no malice lived there.
I would continue driving feeling just a little bit lighter.
One morning, when the sun rose to greet the day, and the cars struggled like so many cattle rushing through the only gate toward pasture, I saw him again. I dug down deep and produced a handful of change and slowed to give it over to his dirty hand. And as I did so, a man behind me laid on his horn as I slowed to stop.
I threw my hand up into the eye of the rearview mirror like a mother waving at an impatient child, letting the horn-blarer know just what I thought. I put on the brakes and ignored the man behind me because he didn’t know anything else.
And I reached out to give this stranger my change.
This moment in time, this moment ongoing will be with me always. The man reached out to take my change and he looked into my eyes again.
Only where brown eyes used to be, the blue of a fresh morning sky greeted me with a look that had seen forever. And he smiled. That smile sailed through my soul like lightning and landed somewhere next to my heart.
At that moment, I knew that I had looked into the eyes of an angel.
And I’ve never seen him since.
This is a true story. I don’t make this stuff up. If I’m writing fiction, I’ll tell you straight out.
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