Every one of them could tell I had money. Every one of them vied for my attention to get the quarter, 50-cent piece or dollar I might hand out haphazardly as I walked the streets of Toronto alone. On occasion, the men and women I made eye contact with were obviously psychologically impaired and I started praying even harder for wisdom and the ability to see past potential danger.
I had $200 in my purse. I could’ve fed all the people I ran into that day — including the ones that had the pride to hide under leaky stairwells from tourists like myself. I’m a mainstream redneck from Alaska, though. I’m well aware you don’t hand money to homeless people. You don’t tell your life story to homeless men just to get them to laugh for two minutes.
But then.. There was Alex.
As all of his cohorts spoke loudly and jostled me through their three feet of sidewalk, Alex just sat there. Watching. When I got close enough to his corner, he quietly muttered, “Please? I need food? It’s been three days. Three… Long… Days.” He couldn’t have been more than 18.
Before I knew it, I had gotten down on his level, pulled him to his feet and pushed him gently towards the McDonald’s a stone’s throw from his spot. As we reached the counter, I told him to order anything he wanted up to $40.
He ordered a Bic Mac meal. At his small request, I found myself choking back the offer to take him home… As I paid for his meal, I did something I promised myself a long time ago I’d never do. I handed him the change. I heard myself scoldingly tell him, “… You use this on alcohol or tabacco, Dude, and I promise you… Just, don’t, okay? Be different. Please. Be different.”
“You’re the nicest (he probably meant dumbest and most naive…) person I’ve ever met. Thank you, Lady. Thank you so much.”
I was too overwhelmed with the hopelessness in his eyes to be a verbal evangelist at that point. All I muttered firmly was, “It’s not me. It’s Jesus. It’s just Jesus.” I should’ve stayed and talked to him but I couldn’t…
I couldn’t sit and talk because the look of fear on his face when I said Jesus’ name was incredibly unexpected. The name of Jesus gives my life purpose. To Alex, though, when I said Jesus, he shrank away with white-sheeted fear. He stopped saying thank you. He stopped making eye contact. He just… Stood there. Shaking.
In order to save his dignity and because I couldn’t fathom his fear, I walked away after I squeezed his arm affectionately. But the only questions going through my mind were questions I now pose to those of you that call yourselves Christians:
What have we done to make those we don’t understand believe that Jesus is Someone to be afraid of? What haven’t we done in order to quell their fears and magnify truth? What do we need to do differently?