Hope on the Corner
This time I decided to make eye contact. I was prompted into action by the echo of my son, Nate, in my ear, who often expresses his passion for the underprivileged and shares how we need to have the courage to engage with the hurting – to value people by looking them straight in their eyes to initiate a conversation. So I made the decision to do the opposite of what I usually do, intentionally turning into the lane where I would be face-to-face with the stranger on the corner.
His name was Daniel, probably in his 30’s, and standing in sneakers and jeans holding a sign, “Out of work. Hungry and need help. God Bless You.” As my car slowed on the exit ramp, I rolled down my window and started the conversation with a simple “Hello, how are you?” It seems like a ridiculous question now that I reflect on it; he was obviously not ok or he wouldn’t be standing on the corner seeking help!
After learning his name, I told him I would pray for him and then asked if he had a family. “Not here,” he responded. A sadness came over me as I thought of how difficult it must be for Daniel with no support system. As the light turned green my final words were, “I hope you can find a community of faith to be your family, Daniel. I don’t have anything to give you, but I will pray for you.” As I pulled away, he responded with a smile, “Thank you and God bless you.” Tears streamed down my face as I drove on – tears of sadness for the many others occupying corners around town.
Hope. It’s something we all need but have different sources and ways of finding it. For Daniel, it may arrive as cash, food, or even a smile from a passerby. Today, I offered it in the form of a conversation and a prayer. It didn’t seem like much, but it also didn’t take much. It began with eye contact and a smile that led to a conversation lasting less than a minute. I don’t know if it made a difference or if it will even be remembered by day’s end. But for me, it was a start – a choice to engage instead of ignore. I remember Mother Teresa’s simple words, “Greet everyone with a smile because a smile is the beginning of love.” We all need to feel loved, especially standing on a corner – alone.
I may never see Daniel again, but I know I will encounter “Daniels” on other corners. My prayer will not only be for them but also that I will continue to have the courage to engage with the strangers among us. Next time I will also be prepared with something tangible to offer: water, for sure, and Chick-fil-A cards stashed in my glove box. This way I can fulfill a practical need along with my prayer – hope on a full stomach.