Yesterday I finished my Christmas shopping. I had to make one stop at Great Lakes Crossing Mall to get a final gift for someone. It took me 3o minutes to find a parking spot, 20 minutes to stand in line, and another 45 minutes to get out. The one thing that struck me is how rude everyone was, and how much peoples greed was showing through. Two days before Christmas, the day of joy and peace, Michigan shoppers were acting like spoiled brats. Cutting people off for parking spots, not following traffic rules. Truly a nightmare before Christmas.
Yesterday I met Michael. On my way home from the mall, I made a stop at a gas station on Baldwin in Pontiac. I was going to get some coffee to keep me going for the drive to Kalamazoo to see Stacy’s family. I noticed a man standing just off the property holding a sign up. It read:
“HOMELESS. ANY HELP APPRECIATED.”
Now I drive through Pontiac most days during the winter to get to work. I pass several shelters and warming centers, but never stopped or helped. But I felt compelled to talk to this man.
I had some change I had pulled out of my car that I was going to drop in a Salvation Army bucket, but I couldn’t find one at the mall. The bag had maybe 6 or 7 dollars in change in it, but I decided to give it to him and help out.
I approached him and asked his name. I gave him the change and asked if he would like a cup of coffee, he eagerly answered “Yes! Just a small is fine though. They won’t let me in the gas station though. Can you put cream and some sugar in it?” I smiled and told him yes.
When I returned, I almost hesitated, but felt prompted to ask him, “Michael, how did you come to find yourself in this situation?” Without even blinking an eye he told me. He told me of how he had made some mistakes, ended up in jail and subsequently got kicked out of his place, and now lives in a shelter.
What surprised me the most was his attitude. “It’s my fault. I made the mistakes.” he continued “But you know what, life moves in circles, sometimes your on top, sometimes your on the bottom. But if your on the bottom, than you can only be moving to the top.” I only spoke to Michael for a few minutes, but it was an eye opener. I shook his hand, asked if I could pray with him, and said goodbye.
Here I was, less than 2 miles away from an outpost of American greed and consumerism, I found a man who had nothing except the clothes he was wearing, and what he could carry in his backpack. While all the country is scrambling to take political sides, find blame and cry “woe is me” over the economy, he told me how he felt blessed beyond measure, and knew that things would bounce back for him. I truly pray they do.
This is a season of joy, a season of giving. It’s also a season of hardship, suffering and depression for those around us who don’t have enough, or have nothing. While you open your gifts, and celebrate with your family this year, consider helping them out. I have put a couple links at the end of this posting to local food banks, shelters and organizations that help the less fortunate. There are more people than Michael out there that need help, let us stretch out our hands, and embrace our fellow man in the love of Christ. God gave us freedom in our lives so that we in turn may show that freedom and His love to our fellow man. This season, if you have been blessed, bless others!
Galatians 5:13New American Standard Bible (NASB)
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Grace Centers of Hope – Oakland County, Michigan
Forgotten Harvest (Food Bank) – Metro Detroit Area
Hospitality House (Food Bank) – Walled Lake, MI