Reading the Signs - Salvation Army Canada

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    Reading the Signs

    My kids wanted me to help the homeless, but first I had to check my attitude December 2, 2011 by Diane Stark
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    “Mommy, why is that man holding a sign?” my youngest daughter asked from the car's back seat.

    Before I could answer, my son replied, “The sign says, 'Will work for food.' That means he's hungry but he doesn't have any money, so he wants to do some jobs for people to get some money.”

    “Can he do a job for us, Mommy?”

    “We don't really need any jobs done, Honey,” I said.

    “But he's hungry, Mommy,” she insisted. “And aren't we on our way to lunch?”

    “We could pick up an extra burger and give it to him,” my other daughter added.

    “That's a great idea,” I agreed.

    When we got closer to the man, I rolled down my window and said, “My children and I are going to lunch. We'd like to get something for you.”

    The man grinned widely. “Oh, wow, ma'am, that would be great!”

    “We'll be back in half an hour,” I promised.

    “I'll be here,” he said.

    Missing Person
    I drove to the fast-food restaurant and ordered our food, including a couple of sandwiches, a drink and a dessert for the man. The kids and I ate quickly, excited to return the food to him.

    But when we drove back to the intersection where he'd been, he was gone.

    “Where is he, Mom?” the kids asked.

    “I don't know,” I said. We drove around for a few minutes, hoping to see him, but we didn't find him at any of the neighbouring intersections either.

    “It doesn't make sense,” one of the kids said. “His sign said, 'Will work for food,' but we were just going to give him some food. Why wouldn't he wait a few minutes for it?”

    “I don't know,” I said again.

    “If he was really hungry, and we were offering to give him food for free, I would think he'd be here to get it,” my son said.

    “I know,” I replied, “but people turn down free gifts all the time.”

    “Well, that's dumb,” the kids said. “Why would someone not want a free gift?”

    When we arrived home, the extra sandwiches went into the trash—along with my attitude.

    Time for a Change
    Over the next few months, every time I saw a person standing on a street corner holding a sign, I remembered the wasted food and the rejection of our kindness. When faced with their need, I'd avert my eyes and pretend that I didn't see them. They would probably use the money for drugs or something to drink, I reasoned. My heart had become hardened.

    One day, the kids and I were running errands and they pointed out a woman on a corner, holding a sign. I refused to look, but the kids read her sign out loud: “Have three young kids. Homeless and hungry. Please help.” And at the bottom of the sign was a Bible reference: Matthew 25:40.

    “Hey, I know that verse,” my youngest daughter said. “It was our memory verse in Sunday school last week.” It says, “The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.' ”

    I remembered the passage well. In it, Jesus was separating the sheep from the goats. In other words, He was separating those who followed His command by feeding and clothing people in need from those who didn't. To those who cared for others, Jesus offers an inheritance, an entire Kingdom.

    I felt tears spring to my eyes as I was forced to face my own self-righteousness. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus offers us the chance to do something for Him. As a Christian, don't I pray and ask Him to show me more ways to serve Him? And yet, I drove past the many opportunities He'd given me, often without giving them a second thought.

    I felt ashamed. I was being offered the privilege of serving God by helping others. Sometimes I knew the people—neighbours or fellow parishioners—but sometimes, they were standing on street corners, holding signs.

    It was time to make a change.

    Gratitude and Tears
    I pulled the car over and opened the trunk.

    “What are you doing, Mom?” the kids wanted to know.

    “I'm going to give some of the groceries we just bought to that lady over there,” I said. “Will you help me?”

    As the kids and I handed the food to the woman, she smiled and thanked me.

    But I shook my head. “No, thank you.”

    The woman's smile grew bigger.

    I nodded and continued. “I stopped because my daughter quoted the Bible verse on your sign. It reminded me that helping you is the same thing as helping God.”

    “Well, we both appreciate it,” she smiled.

    We talked for a few more minutes. She told me her children's ages and I offered to bring some of my kids' outgrown clothes to the women's shelter where they were staying. Her gratitude brought tears to my eyes.

    The next day, I took the clothes to the shelter. When the woman showed her four-year-old daughter her “new” clothes, the little girl was so excited that she hugged me.

    And that's when I knew that I'd helped myself as much as I did the woman with the sign.

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