Thursday, November 4, 2010

this little light of mine

When I first became a Christian the biggest struggle I had with God was why he allowed suffering and the only answer I ever got to that question was, there is a reason for it. A few years ago I served meals at a homeless shelter, men women and children shuffled in by the hundreds, each one having their own story as to why they were living on the streets.  Many of them had addictions that put them there, some had mental health issues, others were just hard luck stories, they lost their job and eventually everything else right along with it.  You could see the deadness in many of their eyes, they had given up on life and they were just trying to survive, day by day, hour by hour minute by minute.  But there was one young man that wasn’t like the rest of them, yes his entire life was stuffed into a tiny duffle bag that he carried around with him, he sat in the corner by himself, with his head down, eating like he hadn’t seen a meal in days, but on the rare occasion that he did look up from his plate, I could see that he still had a fire in him, his little light was still burning.  It is hard to say how long he had been living on the streets, perhaps it has only been a short while and it hadn’t broken his spirit like it had with so many others in that room that day, perhaps it was only a matter of time before his little light would too burn out, but on that day he still had some fight left in him.  I never saw him again after that, I never knew his name or what his story was, but I think about him from time to time and wonder whatever became of him. 

The shelter that I served at wasn’t one that was in my comfortable suburban town, it was in the inner city, where poverty already reigned supreme, the tiny room of the church where I worked was hot, it was a sweltering summer day with no air conditioning, the air was thick with unwashed bodies, and unwashed clothes, the tables and chairs were unsteady on their feet and I half expected a few of them to buckle under the weight of its occupant, and as I scanned the room I wondered where God was.  This was in my very early days as a Christian when I didn’t quite understand why God would allow such things to happen.  Many years later I realized that God was in that room, he was right there with each and every one of us, I saw him in the sadness behind that young mans eyes whose little light was fighting the darkness to keep shining.

I worked in the city for many years, and almost daily went outside for lunch, and on some days I would loose count of the multitudes of homeless people on the street asking me for money, to be honest I usually declined, but there were some that I can’t help but to remember them, the young man in the homeless shelter that day and the young man on the Riverwalk.  Most days I would spend my lunch hour on the Riverwalk, there was a book store on the corner and benches along the river where I would eat my lunch and I loved spending time there, one day  I felt the presence of the boy standing on front of me, he was no older twenty years old and refused to look in my direction as he asked me for a quarter then backed up a good ten feet from me as I rummaged through my purse looking for something to give him when I saw the five dollars, and I felt the nudging on my heart, give it to him his children are hungry, I motioned him over and told him I didn’t have a quarter but take this instead and handed him the five dollars.  The person sitting next to me looked on in disbelief, telling me he was probably going to go buy drugs with that, I said perhaps, but I don’t think so, but really only God knows for sure what he is going to do with that money, it is out of my hands now.

I am not telling this story to toot my own horn, or make you think I am more than what I am, because really the person that I am is a person that more times than not would walk right past the person who is asking me for a dollar or even a quarter, but there have been a few times over the years where I saw a little flicker of light that was struggling to shine through the darkness.  I have never told this story before, and over the years it has faded to memory until I went to the Tenth Avenue North, Addison Road and Matt Maher concert, and Addison Road sang the song, This Little Light of Mine, and I remembered those two young men that crossed my path many years before whose little light was shining before me and I couldn’t help but take notice, I thought about them that night and wondered where they were, if they were safe, and had enough to eat. 

When I started writing this I had no idea where I was going with it, and honestly now that I am at the end of  it I have no words of wisdom to share, no lesson to be learned, just the story of two young men who in some ways became invisible to the rest of the world through their journey of homelessness and poverty but touched something so deep inside of me that I will not forget them.

For your listening pleasure today I Addison Road, This Little Light of Mine. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this memory with us!