It was just before Thanksgiving. My son Tommy and I were going to Toys R Us to pick up a birthday present for his friend Mike. Tommy thought he’d like some Angry Bird plush toys. We were just getting off the exit ramp of the highway when there, looking cold, was a beggar, a homeless person. He held a tattered cardboard sign which read, “Please help me.”
I don’t always respond to homeless folks holding signs by the side of the road, but that day I was moved to do something. We stopped at the stop light. I opened my window and motioned for the guy to come to my car. He saw my gesture and began to walk toward us.
“Mommy, what are you doing?” Tommy asked.
“I’m going to help this guy.”
When he reached the car, I could see he was young, in his 20s. His hair was long and messy, and he wore a big, grey winter coat and a red hat. He had his hood pulled up over his head.
“Hello,” I said.
I took out my wallet, opened it and realized I didn’t have any cash. Perfect. Now what should I do? Tell him to go away? Feeling flustered, I determined that I did have a Summit Thrift Store $10.00 gift certificate. Would he want this? I wondered.
“Have you ever heard of the Summit Thrift Store?” I asked him.
“Yes, I have.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“No, but I can find it.”
I gave him the certificate. He read it and smiled. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ve got a bike. I can ride over there today.”
“Well, maybe you can get something you need there,” I said hopefully.
“I need a new backpack,” he said, turning around and showing me his old one. “This one is too small.” The pack was tiny. I knew he could find a full-size one at the thrift store for under $10.00.
“Great,” I said.
“Thank you so much.”
The light changed, and we pulled away.
“Mommy, that was neat,” Tommy said. “I can’t believe you gave something to a homeless person!”
Tommy had never witnessed me doing this kind of charity. Usually my help is hidden, writing a check and sending it through snail mail or dropping it into the collection basket at church. Or help for friends and neighbors Tommy knows. I’d never just come to the aid of a stranger on the spur of the moment.
Tommy was very impressed by this. What he was witnessing was the love of Christ radiating through me. Jesus did this kind of thing constantly. He was continually giving of himself, healing people and feeding people and teaching people. Dying for people.
That day, I understood more fully that I had to be a good example for Tommy in the charity department. I had to give to others so that he learned to give freely.
My husband and I sometimes volunteer at a local soup kitchen. I think it’s time to take Tommy to help us minister to the poor. Or perhaps, we could pick up some toys for needy children, wrap them and donate them. Tommy is into giving these days because of our little encounter with the homeless person. And I want to promote it.
Advent is underway. We are preparing for Jesus’ coming.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all a bit more giving this year?
May God bless your heart and make it charitable this Christmas season and all year long.