Yesterday I received one of those phone calls no one wants to receive. When I learned the news of a terrible family tragedy, my heart sank. I became silent and so did the world. Everything around me seemed to fade away and it seemed as if I was in a gentle vacuum. The birds stopped singing, the colors around me became grey. The sights and sounds just did not seem as vivid as they had a moment before. I was lost in a special, gentle tunnel – a place where those who receive phone calls like that – go.
I was at work and did not have the luxury of explanatory phone calls, or even going home – and I didn’t feel the need to do so. Though I was feeling a warm sadness envelope me, I was also enveloped in the warmth of the Spirit. I was ok. I was just – different now.
I went about my duties at work and smiled and engaged in pleasant conversation when necessary, but no one knew. I didn’t receive a comforting look or an encouraging word until – I saw the homeless man.
I call him the homeless man, but in truth I am not sure of his circumstances. I guess I just assume he is homeless because every day I see him on the same street corner as I go home from work. Every day I pass this man and I smile. You may think that is a funny (or maybe not so funny) thing to do while passing someone’s who is homeless. But – let me explain.
This man holds a sign as you might find typical. It is on typical brown cardboard, written in typical black marker. It’s the message – however – that is not typical. It says only 4 words. Those 4 words made me smile – even on such a sad day. His sign simply says, “Have a good day!”
I remember the first time I saw him a few months ago. I saw him standing there, smiling at all who drove by, just holding that sign. I wasn’t sure what to do! I didn’t know what that sign meant! Was it his gentle way of asking for help? Did he need money? I didn’t know. But I do know this. Every day when I passed him on that corner, I would look him in the eye and smile. He always returned my look, nodded his head,and smiled back, before directing his gaze to the car behind me. After a few weeks, it seemed as if we were, in a way, friends.
I always wondered if I should ask him if he needed any money, or food, or anything. But, in case he didn’t, in case he was just simply wishing everyone a good day, I didn’t want to seem offensive. So I never asked. Until yesterday.
I don’t know why I thought to ask him yesterday, of all days. But when I saw the corner coming up where he would be standing, I knew I needed to do it. I didn’t want my “friend” to always see me drive by without offering him any help, if he needed it.
So, when I was still blocks ahead of the corner, I rolled my window down and began looking for him. He was there as usual, holding that sign, “Have a good day!” He saw me approach, but he was not prepared for my question, and I was not prepared for his answer.
When my car stopped, we gave each other the usual look and smile. Then I opened my mouth. I asked him, “Is there anything you need?” Now, I hoped to finally have my answer. Was that sign a polite plea for help? Or was he just seeking to help others? I was expecting an answer, but I was not expecting him to be so visibly taken back with my question. He looked down, shuffled his feet and stumbled on his words. “Oh! Um….um….no. Well? I could really use some socks.”
So there I had it. Yes, he was probably homeless. Yes, he was in need. And yes, he was just there trying to help other people. In that moment, I knew THAT was how I wanted to be!
Even though he was in need of something as simple as socks, his mission was to help and lift others! He has quickly become one of my new heroes! The man without socks. The man with the sign. The beautiful example of Christlike love.
Little does he know what he did for me yesterday. He showed me – the love of the Savior. He showed me a perfect example of member missionary work, even though he is likely not a member of our faith. He showed me that truly ministering to others involves selfless service, true charity, and a sincere love for all men. HE was a perfect example of a true missionary because he was there -every day – simply bringing love and joy to all who passed by him!
How can I be like my new non-member missionary friend? Should I join him on the corner with my own sign, “Have a good day – too!” ? Should I pick a different corner? Perhaps Ishould pick another corner….the corner of my own living room, where a child sits alone. Or maybe I should pick a quiet corner of my room where I can use the phone to call someone who I know is desperately needing a friend? Maybe I can pick a corner of the church, where a tired mother needs help with small, tearful children. Or, maybe I should prayerfully search the corners of my own heart, to discover others in need, whom I might not have seen before.
The gentleman on the corner saw everyone. I will try to open my eyes – wider – to see who I might serve. The homeless man offered a smile to all who passed by him, even though his feet may have been tired and cold. I, too, can smile to all who come within my glance, even though my heart, at the moment, may feel colorless. The man shared a message of love with everyone! I, too, have a message which I long to share with others! I will emulate his example and offer it to all I can! This man was in obvious need. He didn’t even have socks. Yet, he wasn’t thinking about himself – only others. Even though my world has suddenly become smaller, I have seen, by the example of this man, that that doesn’t mean I have to turn off my light. I can still hold my sign, and my smile, for others – as he did.
As He did.
Feature photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/14pMYif