On my walk into work this morning, a woman stopped me near the corner of Grand and 20th Street to ask for money.
“Do you have a dollar for a homeless woman?” she asked.
“I have something better, I told her.
I was carrying a bag of food that my daughter Annie prepared last night for the homeless people who set up camp in the park by my office. I started taking out sandwiches, bags of pretzels and bottled water and handing them to her. I asked her name and she told me it was Carrie P. I noticed right away that she was wearing a cross around her neck.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked.
She replied, “I’m a Christian and I write.”
From there, she recited me a few poems (“With Honor,” which she said was her signature poem, then “Splendor,” and she sang me a song she wrote called “Mercy of Grace.”) I couldn’t make out much of what she said with the noise of the passing city buses, but I remember one line about God being so great that we should all bow before him.
We talked for a few minutes more. Carrie told me she’d just left the hospital with a back problem and a terrible case of food poisoning. She also told me in a year she would be 60 years old. I couldn’t imagine it … nearly 60 with no home and only a few bags of random items she’d collected as her sole possessions.
A year ago, I would have walked right by a woman like this with no trouble. I wouldn’t have known her story, what was in her heart or what kind of beauty she’s tried to bring to this world. But that’s not my way anymore. I’ve had a few encounters with our city’s homeless in the last few months, and they’ve always said “God bless you” as I’ve walked away after giving them food. This time, I told Carrie “God bless you” as we parted ways.
When you say something like that as a new Christian … and truly mean it … you can feel how much Christ has changed your heart.