I see him as I pull into the drive-thru, and despite what I’ve been through myself, I want to pretend I didn’t see. He’s huddled up in a blanket, looking like he’s seen much better days, and he’s leaning against the wall outside the building. I get to the box and I order my food, a number seven, the breakfast baconator with potato wedges and a coffee with three creamers. The cashier knows my order from memory. I order the same thing every time I go there. I drive around to the second window like they always tell me to. I’m greeted by name, the woman at the window smiling as she hands me that beautiful cup of warm coffee. I need my wake-up juice after all. I thank the woman who handed me my food, and I have a change of heart.
I drive back to the side where I saw the man. I rolled down my window and said sir, are you hungry? He looked at me in surprise, and responded yes, actually, I am. I hand him the bag with the unopened burger and untouched wedges, I smile at him, and say here is some hot breakfast, I hope you have a great day today. He already had the burger wrapper open and he was eating. He was indeed hungry, I could tell by the way he ate, and the gratitude in his face. Not that it would have mattered to me, I’d given it to him and at the point I gave it to him, I was trusting God with the outcome. He could throw it away when I left, or even right in front of my face if he had wanted to, and I’d have been fine. I gave what I had to give.
I don’t always have anything I can give, but at the times I do, I will give it every time. Not because I’m a nice person, because I am not at all a nice person, but because I see Jesus. The hungry, homeless man was created in the image of God, and his life has value and worth, and I wanted to treat him with dignity and feed him, since I had the means to do so that morning. He evidently needed the hot breakfast, while I hadn’t needed it that badly. When I got done with my errands, I’d get to go home to an apartment with food in the refrigerator and cabinets, something he did not have the privilege of. I had almost overlooked the man, simply because I didn’t want to see him, but that would have denied him a small dignity I could give him. I didn’t even say Jesus loves you, because I didn’t feel the need. Jesus doesn’t always need me to announce his presence for something as small as giving a homeless man a paper bag with food in it.
The other reason I give is because I’ve been the homeless, hungry woman, the one people were doing their best not to notice because this is a beautiful tourist city and we don’t need those vagrants in the way. Occasionally people would hand me a Chick tract or a free Bible and tell me to come to church where I could get saved and Jesus would change my life. I needed Jesus, but that’s not the way I needed to meet him and besides, I went to church. The Bible, however, with those nice pages, made great cigarettes, and having the paper meant only having to buy tobacco rather than actual cigarettes. My friend fucked dirty old men behind trees in the park so we could buy the tobacco, while I kept guard in case the cops or small children came along.
Once we had our cigs, we would meet our other homeless friends. We were all between fourteen and nineteen years old. We would sit in that park with blades, cutting ourselves, not just out of sadness and desperation, but also boredom. One of those young men, who would now be a mid-30’s man, if he has lived this long, will forever have the word FUCK in huge capital letters scarred onto his arm, and he spent a good deal of time doing that. Nobody saw Jesus when they saw me or my friends, they saw deadbeats, runaways, addicts, whores. You know, the types of people Jesus hung out with. People preferred to see rats, roaches, or other such pestilence than they did seeing us. We were a stark reminder that not everything was bright, shiny, and comfortable. Our very existence in that condition made good people uncomfortable.
When I’m able to give, I give directly to the suffering individual, without worrying about if the person is an addict, or mentally ill, or if they “brought it upon themselves,” or anything. I give, and I trust God with it. Not that I really ever give very much, but when I do, it’s because I see Jesus in the face of a suffering human. This holiday season, instead of giving to charities who don’t really help but do judge a lot, or instead of bitching about Starbuck’s holiday cups or people not saying “Merry Christmas,” instead of throwing together a shoebox or donating to your local food bank, take a look around you, in your community, on a personal level. You might find Jesus this holiday season.