There's a homeless man who's been hanging around our general area for the past year or two. Dear Hubby and I have dubbed him "Subway Sam" because we've quite often spotted him leaning on his shopping cart that's crammed to overflowing with all of his worldly goods near a Subway restaurant a few blocks from our house. He doesn't venture too far. And never faster than a snail's pace. When he comes wandering down our street you can hear him coming from a couple blocks away...the rattle of his shopping cart is loud and unavoidable. He's scary looking with his layers of tattered clothing and scruffy beard that hangs halfway down his chest. I've passed him often enough when Dylan and I are out on our walks to know he's rather...aromatic...and I wouldn't even begin to hazard a guess as to when he last took a bath. His ankles are terribly swollen and covered with ulcers...I've glimpsed them at times thru the shredded hems of his pants. To watch him lean on his cart and shuffle along is a painful thing to see. He's quiet and keeps to himself. I've seen people stop a few times to speak to him but not very often...his appearance doesn't really encourage anyone to approach him.
The last time Dylan and I took a walk I passed by Subway Sam near a grocery store I'd stopped at to pick up some milk and orange juice. There's also a drive-up/walk-up espresso stand there, too. And as I looked at him on that cold morning I thought to myself, "If I still have those loose dollars in my wallet I'm going to buy him a cup of coffee." And I opened up my wallet to find only a single dollar bill. Disappointed, I shut my wallet and stuffed it back in my coat pocket and walked on. Only to realize a few blocks further I could've bought him a cup of coffee with my debit card. Duh.
But did I turn around and go back and buy him that cup of coffee? No. And do you know, it's haunted me ever since. Because after I went on I had a scripture come to mind, about how when we help people in need, sometimes we're entertaining angels unaware. And yet... I had a heavily-laden stroller, a little boy ready for a nap...so I kept heading for home. I am not very proud of myself.
In years past my Dear Hubby and another gentleman from our church used to go down to the cheap hotels in the Burnside area of Portland. Now that general area is known as "the Pearl" and a lot of it has undergone an amazing transformation with specialty shops and loft apartments. There are still homeless there, but it's not quite as rough as it used to be. Dear Hubby and Paul would invite people in those hotels to church and quite often they'd come. And many times, afterwards, we'd invite them into our home for coffee and dessert. They came from all over the world, from every walk of life, and everyone had a story. We befriended three young men from Truk Island which is in the Micronesian Island chain of the South Pacific thru Dear Hubby's visits to the hotels. One Christmas one of them came and spent Christmas Eve with Dear Hubby, me, and our kids. His name was Gabriel. He even brought me a gift, a beautiful red blouse. We also had another gentleman over that evening who had no family to spend the holiday with. And it was one of the best Christmases ever...after the kids opened their gifts and we had a big turkey dinner, when the kids had gone to bed, the four of us sat around the dining room table and talked for hours.
And where will Subway Sam be on Christmas Eve? What kind of Christmas memories will come back to haunt him? At some time in life, he was probably someone's beloved little boy, opening gifts around a Christmas tree in the midst of a loving family. At least, I hope so. Do we ever stop to wonder at this time of year...truly wonder...about people like Subway Sam?
I know the next time I spot him, I'm buying him that cup of coffee. And a pastry to go along with it. Because my debit card is always with me. Always.