Wednesday, I shared a story in a comment on a friend's blog, with unintended consequences. I had started out to share a story where my attitude had started out bad and changed, but somehow ended up sharing something that made me look like a great and wonderful person.
Which I wasn't, especially not then.
I was attending a DECUS conference in Atlanta in the early 90. I was staying at a hotel several blocks from the main hotel where my cohorts were staying and where all the evening meetings (and festivities) were occurring.
After a few drinks at the hotel bar, I'd head back to my hotel and run the gauntlet of (presumably) homeless beggars lining the 3 block stretch between the two hotels.
To this day, I firmly believe there were close the seven million of them.
By the third night of this, I hit upon a brilliant idea. Instead of fighting the battle all the way to my resting place, I'd grab the first person who asked me for a dollar and offer twenty if they'd just walk with me to my hotel. I assumed that no one else would approach if I had one of them in tow.
And it worked! The first guy who walked up accepted my offer and we set off for the Radisson.
During our walk, I asked him what his story was. I'm not sure why, because I really wasn't interested. I'd had a few too many beers and really just wanted to get to my bed, crawl inside, and pretend the next morning was several days away.
He told me how he had been a teacher, but he'd lost his job, then gotten a divorce. His wife took the kids. He went bankrupt. Life continued to spiral down to where I found him, destitute and wanting very much to get back to a good life but lacking the basics (car, clean suit, basic hygiene) to make it happen.
What he didn't lack was a gift of gab and a remarkably positive outlook. As he spoke about his children, you could hear the music in his words.
At the end of that walk, I shook his hand and his gaze, which I met for the first time only then, was sharp and clear.
"God bless you, brother."
That's what he said to me.
I was stunned and had no idea how to respond. See, I was a card-carrying atheist at the time, so God wasn't something I did at all. I think I mumbled some sort of blessing back to him, wishing him well and "I hope it turns around for you soon," and that was it.
God Drives It Home
The next two nights, I repeated the $20 experiment, each time getting a different taker. One night I got a former soldier. One more night ended with a near-stranger giving me the Lord's blessing and a smile.
The problem is, on Wednesday, folks started to think I did something special. They thought I touched some mens' lives. I didn't.
If their lives were touched, if their spirits were lightened a bit, if they smiled at the end of our walk, if they had a bit more hope as a result of our interaction...that was God.
Me? I was just a selfish guy who wanted to say "yes" to one homeless beggar so I wouldn't have to say "no" to seven million.
And I've only just realized, as I remembered this story for the first time in ages, and recounted it to my wife almost in tears last night, that the life God touched the most that day was mine, though it took me almost 20 years to see the significance of it, and how He continues to repeat the lesson of Genesis 50:20, even in the lives of those who aren't listening at the time.
Take a minute today and look back. See if you can find God's fingerprints on any old stories in your life. See if there's any material there that you'd forgotten about, or any meaning that you find only when seen with "fresh eyes".
Please share any stories you feel moved to share in the comments below.