Shopping for the Homeless Man

Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti grinned to himself. He couldn’t help it. “Thanks again! I really love it!” he said.

G.M. smiled back at him. “You’re welcome again,” she answered. “You know I like buying special things for you. And I especially like it when the special thing is on sale!”

As G.M. steered the truck across the parking lot, Joseph pulled his new flashlight out of the blue plastic Wal-Mart bag. This was not an ordinary flashlight. This was a flashlight to wear! There was an adjustable strap that would fasten around his head and hold the light in the middle of his forehead. He would be able to see where he was going in the dark and still have both hands free to carry stuff. And wherever he pointed his face, the light would shine in front of him.

“I can’t wait to try it out after dark!” Joseph said. “Mac’s going to wish she had one!”

“I’m sure that’s true,” G.M. said dryly.

“Why is that man sitting on the ground with that sign?” Joseph asked, looking out the truck window. He peered at the black letters printed on the piece of cardboard the man held up. “Will work for food,” he read aloud. “What does that mean? Does he want a job?”

“I guess so,” G.M. answered as she pulled out onto the highway. “But I don’t think that’s the best way to get one,” she added.

“He looked ragged,” Joseph said.

“Yes, he did,” G.M. agreed.

Joseph was quiet for a minute. “Maybe he’s hungry,” he said. “If he wants to work for food, maybe he’s hungry.”

“Maybe,” G.M. replied.

“We should do something to help him!” Joseph exclaimed.

G.M. sighed. “It’s not always safe in our world today to approach strangers like that. It’s probably not a thing that a woman should do. Or you either,” she said.

“But I wish we could do something!” Joseph insisted. “Something to help him.” Joseph thought some more. “Maybe we could buy him some food.”

G.M. put on the truck’s turn signal. She turned into the parking lot in front of a hardware store. Then she pulled back onto the highway in the opposite direction.

“What are you doing?” Joseph asked.

“I’m going back to the grocery store,” G.M. said. “We’ll get some food there.”

“I knew you wanted to help him too!” Joseph exclaimed with a big smile on his face.

“What should we get?” Joseph asked as they walked into the grocery store.

“Well, it should be something a person can eat without needing a can opener,” G.M. suggested.

Joseph looked around. “Fruit!” he said. “We could get a banana and an apple.” He darted ahead. “I like green apples best.”

Joseph selected a picture-perfect apple from the display and rubbed it on his pant leg until it shone. Then he found a perfect banana. A friendly, yellow banana with no brown spots. “We could get some crackers too,” he said.

“OK,” G.M. agreed, smiling. “Find the cracker aisle.”

Joseph did. He stared at all the boxes of crackers on the shelves. “I like that kind best,” he said, pointing.

“Then that’s the kind we’ll get.” G.M. picked up a box.

“Can we get one more thing?” Joseph asked hopefully.

“What?” G.M. asked. Her eyes twinkled.

“He’s probably thirsty too. Can we get a little carton of milk? Or maybe some orange juice?” Joseph asked.

“OK,” G.M. answered. “And I have a good idea of my own,” she added. She rummaged in her purse and pulled out an envelope. “After we pay for the food, we’ll stop at the pay phone on the sidewalk outside and look up the number for the Gospel Mission. I’ll write the number on the envelope and put a couple of quarters inside. If the man decides to call the mission, the people there will be able to help him even more than you or I can.”

G.M. stood looking at Joseph.

“What’s the matter?” Joseph asked. “Is there something on my face?”

G.M. grinned. “No. I’m just thinking that you won’t have to wait until after dark to shine your light. You’re shining with the light of God’s love right now.”

 

Have you seen people holding signs like Joseph saw? Have you done anything to help them? Even if you don’t feel safe stopping, you can always pray for the person. Have you ever collected cans of food to give to a food bank in your town? That food helps people who don’t have enough to eat. What are some other safe things you can do to help? Why do you think God’s love is for everyone—even people who wear ragged clothes and maybe don’t smell so good?—Mrs. Sox