My Homeless Friend – Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog
For the past few months, a man has started standing at the top of the freeway exit ramp near my house with a small cardboard sign asking for money.
He is homeless.
His name is Darren.
I know because I asked him. I’ve seen him too many times to ignore him. He seemed here to stay, so I rolled down my window one day and gave him some money. I had seen him picking up trash along the road, so when I gave him the bill, I said, “Thank you for picking up trash.”
After this day, this area remains impeccably clean.
After my third or fourth gift, I felt comfortable saying, “Hey, give me your name. He said, “I’m Darren.” I said, “I’m Jim.” Then I said, “Dude, tell me what you need. What can I do to help?” He said, “I need a job. I had a job, but they didn’t pay me. I need a job.”
I said, “Let me work on that.”
He said, “Thank you.”
Since then, we have always called each other by name.
A few weeks later, when my car drove past him and I rolled down my window to ask how he was doing, he said, “I hurt my finger. I need a cast or something. It hurts. Evil. Can you help me?’ He held out the badly bent finger. The light had turned green and I had to start driving, but he trotted after my car saying, ‘I’m in pain, you can m ‘to help ?
I shouted when I had to start accelerating: “I’m coming back!
I’m sure he didn’t believe me. I’m not sure I believed me. My wife, Susan, was with me. I had told her about Darren, but it was the first time she had met him. I asked him, “Is it okay if I take care of this?” I’m starting to have a kind of relationship with him.
His response: “Absolutely!
I went to a nearby CVS and got a repair kit for injured fingers (I was pleasantly surprised they existed) and a small bottle of Tylenol, along with a bottle of water. I went back to where he was begging, but he wasn’t there. I suspected that in the nearby trees he must have had a tent or some sort of shelter, so I parked my car at the side of the road, leaving Susan in the car, and went looking. There I found a tent, and it looked exactly like one of the tents Meck had distributed to the homeless community in the midst of the pandemic.
I yelled, “Darren! Darren! It’s Jim!
He came out of the tent and greeted me warmly, and I gave him the plastic bag containing the care kit for his finger and the painkillers. I told him what was inside and what little I knew about its use, and he thanked me again and again and told me I was a good man.
I knew I wasn’t. I am deeply a sinner and I need a Saviour. But I could see how he thought everyone who cared about him was “good.”
A day or two later, my car, Darren and the timing of the traffic light all coincided again. I rolled down my window and asked him how he was. He said, “Thank you, my finger is so much better.”
A day or two later, our paths crossed again at a red light. I rolled down my window and asked, “Hey, Darren, how are you?” and handed over a ticket. He came and said, “No, no, you’ve done too much.
A homeless man begging on the streets refusing money because he felt unworthy. My heart broke.
I said, “No, mate, it’s my honor.”
And then he asked, “Is he supposed to storm tonight? He stormed the other day, and it was tough.
I said to myself, He does not have access to weather reports. He lives in a tent. The storm he was referring to was vicious and could only be frightening to bear living in a tent, not even knowing it was coming..
I said to him: “Yes, there is one coming, and it will be bad, but not before tomorrow.
He said, “Thank you. I believe you.” Apparently the information from other people who hadn’t tried to take care of him was unreliable.
Now, when we don’t see each other for a few days, he says, “I missed you. And I miss him.
Why am I telling you this story? I wish I could say I do it often – befriend homeless people, do all I can to get to know them and take care of them. But the truth is, I don’t. But the Holy Spirit prompted me to stop and talk with Darren, and I can honestly say I’m glad I did, and hope to do it more often.
Neither you nor I can tackle the world’s homeless population. But we can each do our best to make a difference where we can. That’s what I’m trying to do with Darren. Because it is important to remember that he has a name, a life and a story. He matters deeply to God. And it matters to me.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture podcast. . Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.