Your Angels

Lord, please telling me these people in need, and on the street, are your angels in disguise and are not really suffering. I just don’t think my heart could handle if you told me anything different.

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:35-40

If they are not, please reassure me you see them and you are providing for their needs. Instruct me to move on your behalf. What is my part in their plan you have for them? I have no money, but what I have is yours. I can’t believe you would give me your eyes to see them, if you didn’t also equip me to show them your love.

Use me, Lord! Send me! I am suffering too not knowing what to do. I am your servant, Lord. I am theirs.

For your glory,

Amen

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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.

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. 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.

What’s Next?

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Finished my last job early today at 11:30, so headed from Paradise Valley to my office in Phoenix. Driving down 32nd street I spot Miss Norma sitting on a curb in a city park parking lot.

As I drive up to her, taking out a curb in my car myself, she stands up to walk away. Can’t say that I blame her considering my relationships with curbs and all, but I call out to her.

“Excuse me.”

Even as fumbling with trying to turn my gps off on my phone, she walks over to me.

“I made an extra lunch today. I was wondering if you would like it?”

Immediately I feel her heart swell.

“Thank you,” she says. “They cut my assistance. They cut my food stamps. I’m living off of $630 a month for rent and that’s about it, but God is still providing.”

She is nothing but skin and bones. I can’t tell how old she is. Life has certainly taken her youth, but she’s still praising God.

“Thank you,” she adds. “What a nice way to start my day off.”

I shake her hand and introduce myself.

Miss Norma, I pray you have a blessed day.

“I already am. Thank you, again.”

One down.

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I drive about a thousand feet from the city park, and I spot an older gentleman wearing a couple of shirts, and a large floppy hat, like what you would see a gardner wear. He’s going through a large trash bin from a trailer park, pulling out plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Having past the turn in, I circle around the block and head back. I pull up close to the wall so as not to spook him. He doesn’t notice me approach until I’m right in front of him.

Holding up the lunch bag I tell him I made an extra lunch and ask if he would like it. He smiles and nods as he puts his hand out for it.

“Thank you,” he says softly, a whisper really, and high pitch voice that is almost childlike.

At this point I’m wondering if he even understand me because now he is just nodding at me with a gentle grin.

I put my hand up to shake his hand. He extends his arm, and showing me how dirty his gloves are. I squeeze his forearm.

“Thank you,” he says once again.

I get back in my car and proceed to continue driving around the drive to get back out.

Within ten feet I pass two gentlemen who are talking next to their car and then suddenly notice I’m driving the wrong way.

Feeling like a dumb white girl, I stop, make a U-turn and wave back at the two men as I drive pass them once again.

Two down.

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Knowing I have one more lunch to hand out, I take 32nd street all the way down to Washington, instead of going on the freeway. As I’m going under the overpass I notice Mr. Kurt.

Only problem is there is no place for me to pull over. I drive a quarter of a mile to the light and question if I should really pull over now knowing I’d have to walk a quarter of a mile back to him.

I turn right and park in front of the line of cars that have parked along the street to walk into the eatery across the road. I start trekking back to the freeway exit.

As I walk, I notice a makeshift shack tucked closely behind a dirt pile in the open field, with two people moving about.

This must be his home I think, wishing I had another two lunches with me.

As I approach his curb I see he’s holding his sign up to the exiting drivers.

He waves to me.

He is wearing a heavy, black, worn leather jacket and jeans. He has grey, scraggly hair that falls at about his shoulders. He’s rather quite handsome.

As he realizes I’m about to talk to him, he pulls an ear bud out of his left ear.

“How are you?” I ask as I extend my hand.

He takes his cigarette out of his mouth and shakes my hand with his free hand.

“Good, thank you. But very hungry.”

I explain that I was driving down the road and noticed him. Being that I had made an extra lunch today, I thought I would pull over and bring it to him.

“Oh God bless you,” he says.

“He already has,” I reply. “Have a good day.”

I walk back a quarter of a mile to my car.

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As I walk I think to myself, God sees this. He sees where Mr. Kurt lives. He sees how hard some will work to earn a little bit of cash collecting trash. He sees Miss. Norma struggles.

They are his children and he loves them just as much as he loves me. And I’m his favorite, so that’s a whole lot! I’m glad I got to meet them today. I’d like to meet more of them.

So what I’ve learned…

– Pack bananas, not apples. The whole bad teeth thing is real.
– Transcribe my note in Spanish too.
– Get out of my car to interact.
– If they want to talk, listen. If they don’t, don’t take it personally and just walk away.
– This took almost no time to do.

And finally,
– Today I saw the face of God. He’s beautiful and I want to see him again soon and quite often.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” – Matthew 25:35

What If?

Tonight I went to my Mat Group. It’s a group where we get together to make sleeping mats, like what we gave out for Christmas, to the homeless. We meet every other Wednesday at a local coffee shop.

There are three of us.

Yes, many people have said they want to come. Several have come every once in awhile. But for the most part it’s just the three of us.

I love this group!

It is more than just a time to do something nice for someone else. Honestly, that’s just the excuse I use for us to get together.

Because it is while we pull out balls of plarn and crochet down one side of a chain, turn and crochet back over it again, we talk.

We talk about the past two weeks. We celebrate our accomplishments. Cry over our disappoints. We fume over our frustrations.

And tonight we talked about our WHAT IFs. What if we did more? What if there is something else we should be doing? What if we could be doing something for someone? And what if we’re not?

What are we suppose to be doing? What is our purpose?

I shared that I’ve been having this idea about packing a lunch to give away to someone on the street. Most of my day is spent in my car and I see these people daily. They just wander. I don’t know where they are going or what they are going to do.

It’s funny because I told them I haven’t yet because I wasn’t sure what I’m suppose to do.

I thought about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But WHAT IF it’s not eaten right away? It could get soggy or the bread could go stale.

I could pack an apple. But WHAT IF they have bad teeth and can’t bite into it?

WHAT IF….?

I stopped myself.

WHAT IF I just did it instead of thinking so much about it?

If I make a sandwich, then it means I can’t come home until I’ve given it away. I will make sure I slice the apples.

In fact, I went home tonight and scrounged around in my kitchen looking for what I had.

I packed a snack size baggie with some cinnamon toast crunch. I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge. I made just a peanut butter sandwich because I was out of jelly, but I cut it diagonally down the center, because that’s how I like my sandwiches. I had a jolly rancher in my car and a piece of gum on my bathroom counter. I neatly folded a paper towel, since I’m out of napkins, and placed it gently inside, with a note, I hand wrote giving a little bit of hope.

That’s what came out of tonight’s Mat Group, other than the three sleeping mats that are currently in production. In fact, I went ahead and made three.

One for each one of us.

Someone, well, three someones, will be having lunch on God’s dime, tomorrow.

And WHAT IF I didn’t get to see it? WHAT IF it never happened? I’ll write tomorrow to let you know what I might have missed!

Until then, what is your, WHAT IF?

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