Archive for September 2006


September 1, 2006

We stopped to help Victor, so why is it that I have no joy about it?

Last night, on the way home from WinCo in McMinnville, we spotted a man sitting by the side of the road with a small cardboard sign. I was unclear as to what his sign said, as I was in the left turn lane and he was sitting on the sidewalk on the right side of the road. Becky spotted him and said, “There is a homeless man, Dad. We have to help him.”

“Becky”, I replied, I am in the turn lane, I can’t get over to him”.

“You can pull into that parking lot, Dad”.

“Becky”, Abby chimed in, “we can’t get over there”.

By now, I realized that I had listened to the internal voices in an instant, one had said, “there is a man who needs help”, the other, “Don’t bother, you need to get home”.

Becky was pulling up the bag of food that Debbie had stashed under the seat, which was intended to be reserved for instances such as this. “Dad, we need to give him some food”. “Okay, okay, Becky. Let me make this turn and we will see”. The story of the good Samaritan flashed, including the probing question, “who then is my neighbor?”

I made a left turn, I pulled through a parking lot, came back around, and passed the man going the other direction. We pulled into the Arbys parking lot and I parked the car. Becky handed me the bag of food and I reached for my wallet. I got out two dollars, passing over the twenty that I had there, as well. I asked the girls to wait for me, and I got out and walked over to the man.

“It looks like you need a hand, friend”, I said. The man looked up at me, a vague look of recognition on his face, but as of yet no reply. I noticed that he was small and thin, looked to be in his late fifties. He had a small daypack placed on the walk next to him, which appeared to be empty. “Ah, yes, I do need a hand”, he told me. I gave him the bag of food and the money. “Here, this is something for you”, I said. I crouched down so that I could look him in the eye. He said “thanks” and “God bless you”. I asked him what was going on. He told me that he was from back east. His sister had died recently at 48. He needed to get his disability, which I took to mean that he was entitled to some type of disability payment but was not currently receiving it.

His name was Victor. In response to Victor’s thanks, I found myself saying, “I’m sorry that I don’t have more to give you”. Well, the fact of the matter was that I did have more to give. When I asked him if he had a place to stay, Victor looked to the north and said, “Under a bridge”. In the few instances we spoke, I found myself torn between compassion for this man and also some type of a guarded, walling-off response to Victor’s need. Why was I reacting in this way? Of what was I afraid, or why was I not responding to the most basic of human needs? Well, we had given him something to eat…I told him to go to the Baptist church in downtown the next day, as I believed that they would help him. I guess I realized that he was going to be sleeping under a bridge that night, but it did not compel me to do more than what I had already done. Victor told me how grateful he was and gave me a smile. I told him that we would be praying for him.

Becky seemed pleased that we have helped him. When I got back in the van, she asked me about him. I told her he was not from around here. We saw him walk across the street to a grassy area and open up the bag. He must have been hungry. I told Becky and Abby that he had a small day pack, but it was empty, from what I could tell. We prayed for Victor on the way home. I remembered the fact that the Samaritan on the road took the beaten man to an inn and provided the funds for him to be there. I suppose the equivalent would have been for me to have taken Victor to a motel and paid for him to spend the night, but I didn’t. I have prayed for him since, several times, mostly at Becky’s insistence. I don’t expect I’ll ever see him again.

Lord, I am glad I met Victor, and I am sorry I wasn’t more faithful in serving his need. Help me to trust you more next time and to be willing to give more. Thank you for Becky and for her willingness to share. Help us both to continue to grow in our recognition of your working in our lives.