Looking Past Poverty to See Humanity

Several months ago, last November to be exact, I had an enlightening Friday afternoon. Done with class for the week, I was driving to meet my husband in one of the Dallas mid-cities so we could leave town for the weekend. Following his directions, I found myself lost. Pulling over into a parking lot, I called him and he said to stay there and he would come find me. Already perturbed and a little anxious from being both lost and late, I sat back in my car and waited. I noticed a man standing on the corner asking passing cars for food or money. I had seen him on my way to the parking lot, and I had even paused and given him some granola bars I had in my car. He smiled and expressed thanks, and I smiled back and drove on to find a parking spot and wait for my husband. But as I sat and watched as the man continued to stand on the corner, I began to truly see him and his situation. Occasionally a car would stop and somebody would hand him a few dollars. One lady went and got him a hamburger and came back to deliver it before she drove off. Nobody lingered. Food and money. Food and money were offered freely, but time and heart and listening ears were out of the question. As I sat and watched, I got the urge to get out of my car and go stand on the corner with him and talk to him. I thought of how lonely it must be to stand on a corner for hours and only get a few seconds of interpersonal interaction at a time. For the sake of my semi-protective husband, I waited until I saw his car approach the parking lot, then I got out of my car and walked towards the man. It started to drizzle, and he moved from the street corner to sit beneath a live oak tree to eat the meal he had been given. I walked over slowly, smiled, and called out a greeting, so that he would know I came in peace and not to run him off. Sitting down under the tree, I listened to him tell me his story for the next hour or so. I didn’t have to say much. My presence was all he needed to begin a conversation. He was a middle-aged man who had lost his job and had seen hard times. He told me that he tried to live as best he could each day, and that he knew he wasn’t a perfect man and that he had made mistakes in his life, but that one day at a time by the grace of God was all any of us had. As it grew dark, and he left to catch a bus to the shelter across town, he thanked me again for the granola bars. We shook hands and exchanged “God bless you” before parting. As I was thinking about the incident later, I realized that he thanked me for the food, and that food and money are what most people have to give, but the conversation with a person willing to listen probably fed him for longer than my handful of granola bars. Food can feed your body for a few days, but a conversation and being treated like a fellow human being can feed your soul much longer.


3 thoughts on “Looking Past Poverty to See Humanity

  1. That is so awesome, Deb! I’ve always wanted to do that, but I have seen way too many Lifetime movies to get up the nerve. I hate that society is scared of people on the corners and think all they want is money for booze or drugs.

  2. I did something like this today at Wal-Mart…
    I talked to 3 random people just because I felt like it.
    Kyndall was super embarrassed because she’s so shy
    And she kept walking away from me

    But, I learned that Wal-Mart is hiring, and they need new ink in their printers because they ordered the wrong kind.

    It was fun 🙂

    • I love you, Tyler.
      To me, evangelism is a daily attitude of looking beyond myself to the hurts and needs of people around me. I often try to choose the cashier that looks like she’s had a long day and needs a friendly smile instead of someone carping about how slow her lane is running.

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