Vacation… what an incredible gift it is. To have the time and to be in a position to take it and be away…. In general I don’t do vacation well because I feel much most productive and that I add value to the planet when I’m doing something, ie: work! However the older I get and the more time I spend working – the more I see value in getting away, hitting the pause button, refocusing, resetting, just breathing!
And sometimes in the midst of that pause – lessons are learned. Perspective is shifted and you see another side of yourself, and humanity! (And this was the case – in Florida, day one!)
So I had been away from Lancaster for 6 hours. I had arrived at Palm Beach International, deplaned, walked to collect my rental car. Beside the normal information exchange with the agent, we ended up chatting about 20min – conversing about her family, her daughter, her job and dreams to go back to school. It was lovely – as was she! Then I was off!
As I sat at a red light, a mini-van of older guys, probably in their upper 60’s pulled up beside me, rolled down their window and starting chatting. They told me that I had a nice car. They asked what I did when it started to rain while I’m driving? They asked where I got it (because I mentioned about me renting it)… and why wouldn’t I rent from Enterprise, as that’s who they had worked for…… We all ended up laughing, the light turned green and off we went!
As I drove down 95, I thought about the rental agent and the guys in the van, so friendly – perhaps it’s a “southern” thing, but it was nice and a fabulous way to start vacation!
I drove towards the address where I would be staying, decided to explore the area and for some reason ended up passing the same intersection 2 times. I noticed a man standing on the median, holding a sign, asking for help. He was young – probably early 30’s. My first reaction was to read the sign, then do as I (shamefully) do most times, looked away, pretending to not see him and congratulate myself for having not been in the turning lane next to where he stood, as that would just have been so awkward, for me! Crazily, as I sat there watching I saw a man cross the street, literally walk right beside this desperate man and not even say a word.
My heart broke.
The light turned green and I drove on. With each turn of my wheel the man’s face became clearer and clearer. I don’t typically carry cash. I don’t typically give people money. And I don’t typically turn around and go back to where I was – just to chat with a stranger, but I did.
I did legal u-turn and thanked God as the light was red and no one was in that lane. I pulled up, the man looked at me, I smiled and extended my hand towards him. He thanked my several times and told me I had no idea how much he appreciated it. I looked at him and said, “So what’s your story?” He stopped. He looked me straight in the face – shocked that I was actually talking TO him him. It was almost as if his shame, his fear of judgment had just melted away. He told me he had lost his house to foreclosure. He lost his job – I interrupted him and asked what he did… he smiled and said, “I was a pipe-layer and a really good one……. I really liked it!!” He confessed he started using heroine when he lost his job and his house (and looked back at the ground, embarrassed). He mentioned he started going to meetings, oftentimes 2 times a day if he can get there and that he’s been clean for 63 days. I smiled at him and said, “Well done!” He looked at me shocked… “What?” – I repeated myself, “Well done!”
Just then the light turned green and I had to drive on, but as I pulled away he thanked me again. My eyes filled with tears. I looked back and he was wiping, what I assume to be tears, from his eyes too!
As I drove away I was overwhelmed by what had just happened…. Those 4 minutes of interactions weren’t just about giving him the $11.00 cash I had in my wallet. It wasn’t just about meeting the physical (hunger) need of this man. I can’t help but think that our 4 minute conversation, was both a perspective shift for me (to get my head out of my own issues), to a place where someone actually SEE people around me! And it was for him, to possibly remind him that his life, his story IS worth, both being told and heard! I kept coming back to the idea that a simple question, “tell me your story!” gave him dignity. Perhaps a reminder that he does have value and purpose!
I cried for several miles. Yes, I asked myself what I hadn’t taken the next step and told him about Jesus, or at least about church…… and as soon as that thought came up, I just knew that my part, in this story, in this moment, wasn’t necessarily the “share the gospel” moment — but perhaps giving him the perspective that he is SEEN. That he has worth. And perhaps our 4 minutes allows him to see himself as valued, so the next person who takes 4 minutes (or whatever amount of time) time to see him and talk to him, that he’ll possibly ready to take one more step forward on his journey — not to have everything figured out, but to move towards trusting Jesus and HIS plan for his life!
So: tell me your story……