#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.