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On Seizing Opportunity (1/26/09)

As I pulled into the little road shared by Sheetz and Chick-Fil-A yesterday afternoon, I noticed a man sitting at the crux of the intersection. I pulled on by him, turning left into the Sheetz, assuming him to be one of the increasing homeless community that tended to congregate in this part of town. As I pumped my gas, my eyes couldn’t help but drift back to him. There was a rolled sleeping bag at his knees. He was bundled in an old army-fatigue type coat, with a stocking cap peeking from beneath its hood. His cheeks were hollowed, and somewhat unshaven. He looked young, though, and reasonably fit. I wondered what had brought him to this point.

I kept thinking maybe I should go over and offer him some food, or some money. It was around lunchtime, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps he had staked out this spot intentionally, with the goal of acquiring a meal. It was awkward, though–I couldn’t think of how to best approach him. “Umm, excuse me, sir. Would you care for a sandwich?” (Definitely food, I decided, the teachings of a lifetime ringing in my head–no money, you never know when “they” might spend it on alcohol…) Or–was he even homeless? I suddenly wondered. I mean, maybe he was just…er…enjoying the crisp, cool air. One thing was certain: I did not want to offend his pride, or make myself look like a moron.

All these thoughts, and more, ran through through my mind as the gas finished pumping and I settled myself back in the car. I had managed to get myself completely worked up by now–I just did not know how to go about doing what I knew I needed to do.

And so, I am ashamed to say, I turned right out of the Sheetz, passed directly under the stoplight, and kept on going. I did not stop. I did not pass Go.

By the time I got to the end of the next street, though, I was practically in tears. You see, I have seen myself, over the last decade or so, growing increasingly calloused to the needs of others. I used to be so tender-hearted in my youth…and in certain ways, I still am. I can’t bear to kill a Grand-Daddy LongLegs, for example, and I am a sucker when it comes to a kitten. But I have found it easier to harden my heart as a protection, I think, as I have grown older. There’s so much suffering out there. It hurts to dwell too much in it, to be too much a part of it.

I have been very convicted by the example of Christ here lately, though–far different from my own insularity. Jesus was wide open to the hurts of others. He took them upon himself, holding nothing back. He was unafraid, unashamed.

Considering this, and the compelling voice inside that kept saying, “turn around,” I did so at the end of that street. I made a circuit around the block, deciding that I would go through the drive-thru, get a combo, and just roll down the window and offer it to him casually, with a simple, “I have extra, would you like?” My heart pounded with excitement and pride in my own courage.

As I came around in front of Chick-fil-A, that same heart stuttered and dropped. There he was, poised in flight on the edge of the street, waiting for a break in traffic. As I watched, halted behind a couple of cars, he seized his opportunity and bolted across the street.

Guess I missed mine.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2010 1:42 pm

    I feel for you! I can really associate with what you were going through. How awful it is to miss an opportunity like this one. But I’m so happy for you that you found the courage to go back.

    The cool thing about missing this opportunity though, is that this experience is having a far greater impact on you than “not missing” could ever have. Each time I have an experience in which I fail or mess up etc., the trauma of it somehow imbeds a memory in my mind that will not allow me to make the same mistake twice (until, after much time passes, and the memory fades, causing me to have to learn it all over again!). Thankfully, Christ transforms our traumas into wisdom, and keeps on loving and teaching us.

    I hope you feel comforted knowing that we all have such moments, and that ultimately, you did make the right and brave choice! There will be more opportunities; and when they come, you will be ready! 😉

  2. Lori permalink*
    February 7, 2010 7:00 pm

    Thanks, Corine. You are exactly right when you sayd that Christ transforms our traumas into wisdom. I was so moved by this experience that I make a practice now of looking for opportunities of this nature. I don’t often see them (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?) but my eyes are open.

  3. Anaise permalink
    February 15, 2010 9:08 am

    I need to go make breakfast for my kids, but I clicked on the link to this on impulse before I “start” my day. I’ve just been reading Donald Miller–do you read him? I think you’d like him. This story reminds me of him because he’d have stopped, and reminds me of me and my forever struggle with being a true disciple of Christ because I’d have waffled until I missed the opportunity, too. Even though I have been steeped in a culture of giving, I have at the same time been wrapped in a system of giving in a certain way. To be spontaneously kind, to follow the inklings of the spirit, to do what is right means casting off . . . what? I can’t find the right word . . . it just takes being real, I guess.

    This is the reason I’ve begun reading your blog–you write about real stuff.

  4. Lori permalink*
    February 15, 2010 10:01 am

    Thank you, Anaise, for the Donald Miller recommendation. I just researched him and took a peek at his blog, and I think I am really going to like this guy–you know me well.

    One of the things that I love most about my salvation through Jesus is the knowledge that it’s okay if I waffle and stumble–I’m not expected nor required to be perfect, even though I’m given the opportunity for at least presenting perfection through the power and energy of Jesus Christ (I Col 1:28-29). That’s comforting, and empowering at the same time–I know that probably sounds odd. We’ll get it right, eventually. I have faith. God’s doing a good work in us.

    I appreciate your “real” statement, because I feel the same way about your writing. I love reading your stories about your daughters, and feel as though I have just settled in to the corner of your couch for a little visit when I start. That’s what it’s all about.

  5. Anaise permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:59 am

    “God’s doing a good work in us.” That’s the part I struggle constantly with remembering. I forget that I’m not expected to be perfect except through the grace of His Son. Your testimony is invaluable.

    And I’m so glad you come “visit” me and read my stories!

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