To See Jesus

#30 Steven @ 32nd Street and Thomas, Phoenix.

Steven was just sitting on the corner, minding his own business. No sign. No hand out. Maybe he was taking a break from standing but when I encountered him, he was just watching traffic.

I sat down next to him and asked what he thought of the weather. It was a bit chilly for me.

He made small talk for a minute, but clearly wasn’t comfortable with me sitting with him so I got up to leave.

He probably didn’t feel any more special today, but for me he was a milestone.

I’ve just met thirty individuals, and passed out thirty extra lunches.

Actually, there’s a few more than thirty, but I didn’t get their names. Not that they don’t count as individuals, but not as a name to go with a face. God knows their name. I want to know their name too.

Thirty seemed like a big deal to me.

That’s one person a day for a month.

Wish I could say that’s a goal I’ve actually met, but it’s still thirty people I never would have taken the time to meet if I never followed through on my “What if” conversation I had with my friend.

All these names are people, like real people. All people who were once little kids, who went to school and had friends and a family, just like me.

1. Norma at 32nd Street and Windsor, Phoenix. Norma had her public assistance cut.

Recycle guy at 32nd Street and Yale, Phoenix. He was going through a dumpster of a trailer park looking for cans and bottles. I don’t think he speaks English.

2. Kurt at Washington and I10, Phoenix. Kurt lives out in a field. He’s looking for a job that will pay cash since he can’t afford to lose his public health insurance. I’ve actually had a lunch for him, a couple of times. If I see someone more than once, I try to check in with them.

3. Mike at 91st Ave and Olive, Peoria. Mike is an older gentleman looking for a job but won’t turn down food either.

4. Steve “Sarge” at 83rd Ave and Bell, Peoria. Steve is struggling to pay for his wife’s medical bills.

5. Daniel at 59th Ave and Northern, Glendale. Daniel is a young guy who’s hungry and hanging outside of the Walmart parking lot.

6. Rebecca at 59th Ave and Northern, Glendale. Rebecca is up early looking for food.

7. Jack at 67th Ave and Thunderbird, Glendale. When I offered Jack a lunch he asked me why I wasn’t going to eat it. I told him I already ate mine and I made a second one for him. He was in shock and couldn’t understand why I would do that.

8. Gary at 20th Street and Thomas, Phoenix. When I asked how his day was going, he told me not good, but when I offered him a lunch and told him I hope it gets better, he became so excited and told me it already is.

A man pushing a cart at 27th Ave and Yorkshire, Phoenix. His sign said he was 73 and a US vet. Couldn’t get his name or story since we were stuck in the car, holding up traffic and not having a place to pull over.

9. Scott at Buckeye and I 10 exit, Phoenix. He’s from Arkansas. Been here about a year. He came out to help a friend. I have no idea what happened to the friend but he’s hoping to get a job next month.

10. Kevin at 32nd Street & Washington, Phoenix. Kevin was pulling a cart full of cans, empty bottles and scrape metal across the street. Two months ago he was in an accident that required putting several pins in his elbow. The other driver left the scene.

11 & 12. Corina and Lydia at 59th Ave and Bethany Home, Glendale. This is the day I told my son he’d have to leave my house, for the second time. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as brought bags of chips, popcorn and some fruit. Even though there was several people in the same park, there were the only two who would have lunch with me. I gave the peanut butter jar and jelly to Corina since she said she had kids.

13. Spanish speaking woman (got her name, couldn’t understand it) at the light between the 101 and 91st Ave and Northern, Peoria. She was holding a sign asking help for her kids.

14. Steve at Cortez Park at 35 Ave and Dunlap, Phoenix. Steve was fishing in the park with his buddy A.Z. We didn’t get to meet A.Z. but Steve asked if we could put a lunch in his chair for him.

15. Jim at Cortez Park at 35 Ave and Dunlap, Phoenix. He was older and sitting cross legged in the middle of the grass. I don’t know that he was doing anything but sitting.

16 &17. Nate and his son Timothy at 7th Street and Indian School, Phoenix. Timothy’s mom, Kristy was at work.

18 & 19. Gail and Lieutenant John at the canal just east of 19th Ave and Hatcher, Phoenix. I couldn’t miss Miss Gail’s hot pink hair from the road.

20. Ramon at a field on Grand Ave, north of Indian School, Phoenix. He was sitting in the middle of an empty field.

21. Pete at I17 and Peoria, Phoenix. He accepted my lunch, then put it on the ground and pushed it away from him. Perhaps he will eat it later.

22. Darrin at 7th Street and Dunlap, Phoenix. Darrin’s sign read, “homeless and hungry.”

23. Sky at Country Club and Baseline, Mesa. Told me a poem he wrote about tears and rainbows. Also a metaphor about not grieving for loved ones, but writing a thank you letter to them.

24. Gene at 19th Ave and Bethany Home, Phoenix. Hid his face behind his sign that said, “Please help.” He wouldn’t make eye contact with me, but was very nice.

25. Eddie at I10 and Litchfield Rd, Goodyear. He was sitting on the ground with his back up against a street sign, holding a sign that read HUNGRY. I asked him how his day was going. He smiled and told me he’s not complaining.

26. Nicki at Northern and Grand Ave, Phoenix. Nicki looked like the life of the party wearing a fluffy skirt with leggings and I couldn’t tell you how many colors her hair was. Her sign read, “Anything would help.”

27. Howard at Arizona Ave and Ray, Chandler. Howard was pushing his cart down Arizona Ave.

28. Syai (Sy) at 5th Ave and Hatcher, Phoenix. Sy was very grateful for his lunch, but he wants a place to stay. He asked for help. No one has asked for my help before. Questioned why God brought me to him. I felt helpless.

29. Justin at 59th Ave and Thunderbird, Glendale. His sign read, “food”.

30. Steven at 32nd Street and Thomas, Phoenix. Steven was just sitting on the corner, minding his own business.

But something went wrong.

Maybe they were taken into foster care after something horrific happened?

Maybe something horrific happened, and they weren’t!

Maybe they were raised by addicts?

Maybe they have an undiagnosed disability?

Maybe they have a mental illness?

Maybe they don’t trust?

Maybe they’re scared?

Maybe they’re facing their own demons?

Maybe they’re socially awkward and were outcasted?

Maybe they mentally can’t handle relationships?

Maybe they did something terrible, and believe this is all they deserve?

Maybe they were abandoned?

Maybe they are self medicating because they can’t afford help?

Maybe they’re heartbroken?

Maybe they’re lost?

I don’t really believe everyone of these thirty people are lazy and have poor budgeting skills.

I don’t believe they decided one day they didn’t like all the responsibilities that come with a job and family, so they believed living on the streets would be easier.

I don’t believe anything that is going on inside their head is easy.

Are there scammers?

Maybe, but even still, I don’t believe any of them are living a life to be envied, so who are they really cheating?

Maybe they don’t have any desire to come off the street.

Maybe they are choosing to live this life.

Maybe they make poor choices.

Does this mean they are forfeiting their value? They have no worth?

I don’t believe that’s true.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you. – Psalm 139:13-18

When it all boils down to it… maybe they’re just not as good at hiding all their brokenness as I am? That shouldn’t change anything.

So my goal remains the same.

To look like Jesus to a stranger, if only for a brief encounter.

To see what Jesus sees.

To see Jesus.

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Bless Them

#26 Nicki @ Northern and Grand Ave, Phoenix.

Nicki looked like the life of the party wearing a fluffy skirt with leggings and I couldn’t tell you how many colors her hair was.

Her sign read, “Anything would help” and since I was in traffic and on my way to work, I did something I never do.

I waved to her and rolled my passenger side window down.

I hate doing that, because I feel rushed and I know our conversation would be quick, but I also didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity to give her a lunch.

Don’t know anything about her. I drive this way nearly everyday and I’ve never seen her before.

#27 Howard @ Arizona Ave and Ray, Chandler.

Howard was pushing his cart down Arizona Ave.

I few across two lanes of traffic to pull into a Walgreens.

I was afraid I was going to miss him, or have to chase him down the street, so I pulled quickly into the first spot. The spot, of course, was flooded from all the rain.

I jumped out to catch him.

Funny, I spot him standing in the middle of a drive way, adjusting something, or perhaps, waiting for me.

I wave as he looks over towards me.

He waved back with a grin, but continues to push his cart out of the road.

“No!” He looks back once again.

This time I wave and point to the brown paper bag I have in my hand.

His grin turns to a big goofy smile as he abandons his cart and starts to walk towards me.

“Good morning!” He hollered out.

“Good morning! I was afraid I was going to miss you. I made you an extra lunch today. I don’t know? In case you haven’t eaten today.”

He just seemed so joyful, he made me feel joyful too.

Lord, bless the ones who bless me.

Mr. Brokenhearted

#25 Eddie @ I10 and Litchfield Rd, Goodyear.

Recently I was telling Mike, before I started making extra lunches, I would notice people living on the street, everywhere.

Since making an extra lunch, they are much harder for me to find. Some days, I don’t see anyone at all.

I wonder to myself, if maybe God has someone in mind for me and he doesn’t want me distracted.

So I look for them. Sometimes it requires me…OK, most of the time, it requires me parking my car at quite a distance before I can walk back to them to learn who they are.

Today I was driving to my last interpreting assignment and coming off the freeway, when I saw Eddie.

After seeing him on the corner, I had to drive under the overpass, circle around in a couple of parking lots before parking at Jack in the Box, and walking back to meet him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18

I know where to find him.

I know when I see him.

I know he pursues me. And I like to pursue him too.

Today, I scared him as I approached him from behind. I’m always afraid of doing that. He was sitting on the ground with his back up against a street sign, holding a sign that read ‘HUNGRY’.

I asked him how his day was going. He smiled and told me he’s not going to complain. As soon as he does, things get real bad.

I shook his hand a couple of times. First after he stood up to greet me, the second after I told him I made an extra lunch for him and he grabbed my hand again as he accepted my brown paper bag.

“I’m so hungry”, he tells me.

I squeeze his forearm, as a driver in a car pulls up, hooks her horn, and starts waving something out her front window.

Certain, that she wasn’t looking for my attention, I turned to walk back under the overpass to get back to my car.

“Have a great day, Eddie!”

Yep, today I saw Jesus. He was there. Taking care of his sheep.

Mr. Sky

#23. Sky @ Country Club and Baseline, Mesa

I originally drove past him as I was heading back to the office. He was standing at the drive into a Walmart wearing all black and holding a small sign.

He didn’t look like he lived on the streets.

I thought maybe he was looking for a ride. I circled around to get a glimpse of his sign.

It read, “Hungry and Broke”.

I circled around once more and parked.

He looked confused as I approached him and waved.

Not sure if he spoke English, I shouted out, “Good morning!”

“Good morning!”, he says with a smile.

“I made an extra lunch today. Would you like it?”

He took my bag, but asked, “Who made an extra lunch?”

“I did. Everyday I make an extra lunch and look for someone who is hungry. You can have it if you’re hungry.”

I don’t know, I was kind of taken back by his shock. He looked at me like he was surprised I was giving him food, when he was clearly holding a sign that says he’s hungry.

“I have a poem for you”, he told me.

He spoke a beautiful poem about tears and rainbows. I wish I could recite it to you. It was a poem he wrote. I tried to listen to his soft words over the rough engine sounds from the passing cars.

He had some wisdom for me too!

It was about not grieving loved ones once they pass, but rather sitting down to write a long Thank You letter to them to help you heal from the loss.

He has definitely been the most interesting individual I have met.

I wished him well, and gave him a hug.

I hope I inspired him, as much as he inspired me.

Lord, I don’t know Sky’s story, but I know you do. Bless him today and everyday. May the words he speaks be those you have given him. Keep him safe.

Mr. Pete and Mr. Darrin

#21, Pete @ I17 and Peoria, Phoenix.

As I drove down the exit ramp heading south to turn east, I noticed Mr. Pete from the corner of my eye, sitting on the curb on the opposite corner. With him he had a backpack and a small sign that I never got to read.

After making a couple of U-turns and parking a quarter of a mile away, I walked down to the corner he was tucked away at.

He accepted my lunch, then put it on the ground and pushed it away from him.

Perhaps he will eat it later.

Kinda felt it wasn’t food he was looking for, but that’s OK. There will be those people.

Interestingly enough, after waking back to my car and driving across the street to a QT to use the bathroom and write my note about Mr. Pete, I look up to find someone else who I noticed working the median at a different corner.

He was holding his sign, along with a couple of bags of groceries that he had just recently purchased from inside the store. In his hands were a couple of boxes of cereal, a Monster, a fountain drink and a coffee cup.

I observed him conversing with another gentleman who was struggling with something on his bike.

Shortly thereafter, an employee came out and had something to say to him. It seemed that the employee was not happy, while the gentleman with his groceries and sign, looked confused.

I was confused as well.

I watched him being told to leave the property from the comfort of my car. My car that was parked in front of one of their entrances and I, who only used their bathroom and did not purchase anything was not approached at all or asked to leave.

Interesting.

#22, Darrin @ 7th street and Dunlap, Phoenix.

Mr. Darrin’s sign read, “Homeless and Hungry”.

I find it interesting that people have confronted me about using the term “Homeless” and accuse me of giving them a derogatory label, when in fact, it appears, it is what they call themselves.

For the record, Deaf people who are deaf, consider the term “Hearing Impaired”, to be derogatory, even though those who can hear feel it is more politically correct. Just saying.

Maybe there’s a difference, maybe there’s not.

Having already giving my extra lunch away, I pulled over to give him a coat that was donated to me; he was after all, wearing a sleeveless shirt.

After approaching him and offering the coat, I realized he already had one that he was not wearing.

Awkward moment when I feel he accepts my offer to not hurt my feelings.

Ugh….

I don’t even know what to say about that, except there was a time when I was single and struggling to clothe my four children.

I would never turn down anything that was given to me. Even if I had plenty, I never knew if I was going to run out.

I figured it was a gift that I didn’t know I was going to need. I felt it was God’s provision.

If he doesn’t need it, I hope he gives it to someone who does.

Lord, please look after Mr. Pete and Mr. Darrin. I pray that what they seek is what they need. In your Son’s name. Amen.

Mr. Ramon

Ramon is #20 of the 365 names I want to collect.

I collect my names through extra lunches, but it’s not about the lunches. It’s not even really about the names. It’s about the people.

My goal is to match 365 faces with a name. If I can get a story too, well that would be icing!

What I hope to do is to inspire others to show more compassion.

We are all called to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37). One way I do that is by searching for those who are hungry.

#20 Ramon @ a field on Grand Ave, north of Indian School, Phoenix.

Mr Ramon was sitting in the middle of an empty field surrounded by his treasures.

I hollered out a hello as I approached, just so I wouldn’t spook him.

He seemed to be intently working on something, but by scanning the ground around where he sat, I couldn’t figure out exactly what. His hands were wet, soapy even, I think.

I told him I had made an extra lunch today, and wondered if he was hungry.

He looked away from me.

I thought for a moment he was going to say no.

He gazed back.

“Well.” He paused, “I’m always hungry.”

His voice was soft. He sounded gentle. He spoke as if he was in no hurry, and pondered the words he wanted to speak. “Thank you.”

He reached out to grab my sack as I extended it to him.

“I hope you have a great day, Ramon.” I turn to leave when I heard him call out.

“Kim?” I turn to face him. “I think I’ve seen you before. You and your husband. You were walking.”

I assured him it wasn’t me. I was a little disappointed it wasn’t.

“Oh.” He started to sit back down.

“God bless,” I told him as I started heading back to my car again.

I had wished we weren’t standing alone in the middle of a field.

I wished I wasn’t a woman who had to be mindful of her safety.

He seemed lonely.

I hope his meal brought him comfort.

Miss Gail and Lieutenant John

I couldn’t miss Miss Gail’s hot pink hair from the road.

I made a U-turn and headed back.

Once I started walking to where she was camped at, I could see there were three other people with her.

I’m not going to lie, I was scared.

I kept asking God to protect me. I was at their home and I didn’t know what to expect.

I handed Miss Gail the one lunch I had with me and immediately she asked if I was with county.

I didn’t even know what she meant. I told her no, I just couldn’t help but notice her beautiful pink hair from the road and wanted to turn around to give her my extra lunch.

She thanked me and I started walking off when Lieutenant John spoke something to me that I couldn’t hear, so walked back.

He was telling me his name was John but the people on the street gave him the name lieutenant.

He spoke really fast. They both did.

Miss Gail came over to us and was saying something I didn’t quite understand but she seemed agitated and set something wrapped in a black bag on the wall and said they were needles.

Dear God, why do you have me here?

Apparently they were something she took from someone because she felt they were dangerous.

I don’t even know. I’m still trying to piece together what she was talking about.

I didn’t feel safe.

Lieutenant John wanted to talk to me about where he’s from, Indiana by the way. His friend who didn’t give me his name joined the conversation, briefly. Their fourth friend had nothing to say.

I left telling Miss Gail I would pray God would put a hedge of protection around her and to stay safe, since I felt she felt she was in danger from the person she took the needles from.

I really don’t know what to think.

This was the 20th lunch I have given out.

It was the first time I ever felt uneasy while I was there and not sure how I should feel after I left.

They were very nice. They were not threatening.

I was scared because they talked fast.
I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
She asked me something, I didn’t know what she meant or who she thought I was.
She openly talked to me about meth and needles.

I don’t think I will go to anyone’s home again. I don’t think that was smart.

But I won’t let this interaction stop me from packing an extra lunch.

I want to continue to love God and love others.

Lord, please look after Miss Gail and her friends. She could really use your help. Thank you for giving her friends she seems to trust and can look out for her. I pray they feel your call for their lives and may they feel your love.

Help me to find you during this brief encounter I had. May I learn from what you wanted me to see. Amen