click to play: One of Us
While on my way to the neighborhood grocery today, I was reminded of this song, by Joan Osborne in 1995..
I live in a fairly nice neighborhood.. I say fairly nice, but if I had come to visit this neighborhood growing up, I would have been in awe – the size of the houses, the pool and other amenities available..(what I know NOW is that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the golf course)..
anyway – the reason the song came to mind ..
As I turned onto the main road of our neighborhood, I saw a man asleep under the tree across the street. He was thin,had a long beard and wasn’t exactly dressed for the Florida heat. Sitting next to him was a buggy (or grocery cart or whatever people call it where you live..we in the south call them buggies) with his stuff in it.
I am actually ashamed of myself, honestly, because my first thought was that I needed to find the non – emergency number for the police so they could do something about him. The last thing we need with property values falling and crime going up is a homeless person hanging out on the street.
Then I remembered – without all of the help my family received when I was younger – the churches who paid our bills, the family who let us live with them when my parents were out of work or for whatever reason couldn’t afford to pay the rent..that could have been us.
I feel ashamed of myself, because, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw this man, was not a prayer. It was that he needed to leave my sheltered area of domestic bliss – where things like homeless people didn’t exist.
I hadn’t thought about this man in years. We never knew his name. He lived – if you can call it that – in Forest Park, near the town where my sister and I grew up. He was always there, walking up and down Jonesboro Rd. He never asked for money. My sister and I would put food in his buggy when he wasn’t looking.
There was a day that my sister and I had stopped at Wendy’s for lunch. We were both single mom’s at the time, waiting tables and struggling. We had scraped enough change out of the car and our aprons to get something to eat on the way to work. As we were eating, we noticed the man, sitting and drinking a cup of coffee. Of course he had not showered or shaved in quite a while and his clothes were unkempt, but he wasn’t bothering a soul.
The manager came out and told the man that if he wasn’t going to order any food, that he had to leave. He was disturbing other customers.
The manager disturbed us. My sister and I looked at our food and I don’t know about her for sure, but I think she probably felt as sick as I did. The man got up and went back to his buggy and continued his walk, to where ever it was he went. To this day, at this second, I feel sick thinking about how cruel that seemed to me. I wonder often what happened to the man.
I didn’t notice the homeless man under the tree on my home from the grocery store ..but I have said a prayer for him – and the man who will forever be in my memory, reminding me that but for the grace of God…
..and what if God was one of us? Would he be happy with the way we treat others? Would he be happy to let me into his kingdom if I turned my back on someone just because they were poorer than me?