When it comes to our children, we are constantly asking them to do as we instruct, but they don't always listen. The same goes for us as parents, too. We don't always listen to our intuition or, in my case, to what I feel God might be telling me to do. We can choose to ignore it once, but should it present itself again I feel we are getting a second chance at doing something right.
Getting healthy by eating right and exercising more has been at the top of my priority list as of late. I have been biking quite a bit over the past two weeks and on Saturday morning I chose to hit a bike path for a nice 20 mile ride. It was a beautiful morning and I felt great. As I neared the turnaround point, I noticed a gentleman along side the path who appeared homeless. He was minding his own business and was working on something for someone. Immediately, I felt like God was asking me to stop and talk to this man, say hello, and offer him my protein bar. Doubt kicked in and gave me reasons why I should not and that I needed that energy to make the 10 miles back. Shame on me for ignoring what I knew was right. I rode right on past him and made my way home, but I could not stop thinking about this man.
Last night, I opted to go for another 20 mile ride in the evening. This is where God gave me a kick in the pants and second chance. Along the way, I had to pass by a few soccer fields where kids were playing soccer. I began to feel like I was being tested and that God had a message for me. First, a girl was kicking a ball on the wrong side of the bike path and her mother said nothing to her. I had to slow down considerably and wait for her to move. Then, another kid, not paying attention, kicked his ball right in front of my tire, even after I said 'Excuse me.' I am getting visibly frustrated. Then, I see a woman running in front of me. I hollered loudly to her 'On your left!' and her music must have been super loud because she keeps running and just as I am about to pass her, she turns right into my path! I take the concrete hill and she jumps out of my way with only a foot to spare. Third crisis averted! Then, as I am climbing a hill, a guy with headphones on comes from a side road (I had the right of way) and cuts me right off. I shake my head, shift gears down and continue to climb.
God must have figured he hadn't gotten through to me yet because my shoe string wrapped around my pedal. It wound tight and I had to stop to get it unwound. Here is where I 'woke up'. I was along the edge of a steep rock embankment and as I slowed to get the lace untangled, my bike leaned the way of the rocks. In order to not fall into the jagged rocks, I had to snap my foot down, thus snapping my shoelace. I was able to catch myself before I toppled over and pondered what had just happened. I felt like I was supposed to slow down. God must have been satisfied that I was now alert because a mile down the path I found the homeless man from Saturday. I knew I would pass him on my way back and again, felt the need to stop and offer him my protein bar.
I stopped at the turnaround for a drink and to see if I had anything better than a protein bar. Wouldn't you know it, I had a Wilderness Athlete gel pack and a PROBAR in there. I ate my protein bar, drank some water and started back.
Once again, doubt filled my mind. What if he wasn't homeless? What if he didn't want to be bothered? What if he was armed? I couldn't shake it and as I got by his tent I saw him to be texting on a phone. I rode by thinking, 'Well, if he has a phone and can text then he doesn't need my sympathy'. Immediately, I felt ashamed for having judged this man for no reason. Who was I to judge and where the heck was my compassion? A quarter mile up the path I turned around and went back. I was in no place to judge and needed to listen to my soul.
Stopping in front of the tent, I apologized to the man for interrupting his evening and for the intrusion. I then asked him if he might need something to eat. He set down his phone down, which I noticed wasn't a phone at all, but a journal that he had been writing in, and said he would be grateful for anything I could offer.
Now, I pause to mention that my wife and I have been working with our daughter to be grateful for things provided to us, no matter if we like them or not. We have been explaining to her that there are people who have nothing who would give anything for a smile, a kind hello, or a meal. Here was a man with nothing and was grateful. God was teaching ME a lesson in humility, kindness, and also being grateful. For me, being grateful also means being willing to share what I have with others. What a lesson!
Over the course of just a few minutes I learned much from Tony. He explained that he had been out of work for months, and was picking up odd jobs to survive. He never asked me for a thing. I am choking up when writing this because he thanked me for the PROBAR and WA gel and said he would save it for his meal tomorrow. While I needed to get back to cook dinner for my family, I knew I needed to listen to this man, even if was only for a few minutes. We shared some laughs, stories, and he even mentioned he had a resume. Now get this, he didn't ask me to take one, he simply mentioned he carried them around just in case. I was humbled and asked him for a copy. After putting the resume in my pack, I shook his hand and told him I would be seeing him soon as I bike this path often.
Now, I don't want kudos or thanks for stopping. I should have listened in the first place. God works in mysterious ways and sometimes we just need to open our hearts a bit more and show some compassion. Take the time today to be kind to a stranger. Say hello and offer a smile. If you have some spare change or a candy bar and feel the need to share it, please do. There are far too many out there who have fallen on unfortunate times and they eat, sleep, and breath just like you and I. I can only hope to run into Tony and see if I can put his resume into the hands of someone who can really help him with a job.