08
Aug
16

Connections

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A couple of weeks ago I was in the midtown Kansas City area with a friend. It was evening. We had just attended an event together and were on our way home.

Suddenly he noticed that his car was low on gas. The needle was down WAY past “E”, so trying to limp back to the suburbs on fumes was not going to be an option.

We pulled in to a filling station and he began the task of swiping his credit card, pulling out the hose, and filling up.

As I sat there idly looking out of my open car window, I suddenly noticed a somewhat shabbily dressed man walk up to my friend while he waited for the tank to fill. I had a strong intuition that there would be a greeting of some kind followed immediately by a request for money.

BINGO! I was right. The exchange went something like this:

SDM: (shabbily dressed man) “Hey man… how’s it going?”

MF: (My friend) “Pretty good. How about you?”

SDM: “It’s all right. But hey… I’m a little down on my luck and could use a couple of bucks. Know what I mean?”

Now at this point, I began to project myself into my friend’s shoes. I heard the thoughts in my mind saying, “If I give this guy money, he’s probably just going to use it for booze or drugs. I’ll just tell him ‘NO’ and get back to pumping my gas. And then we’ll hightail it out of here!”

Oddly my friend did not follow the script in my head. Instead he reached into his back pocket, took out his wallet and said, “Let me see what I’ve got here.” He then pulled out a $1 bill, handed it to the guy and said, “Here you go. It looks like this is all I’ve got. Hope it helps!”

And then, the other guy (the guy who had asked for the money) said, “Hey, man… that’s cool. You know actually, I just need it to buy me a cold beer. It’s been a long day and I really need a beer.”

“Well… at least he’s honest,” I thought to myself.

But then something even more odd happened; they kept talking! My friend asked the man what his name was (he said, “Daryl”), and then told him his name. After shaking hands, he asked Daryl to tell him his story. He listened as Daryl explained that he actually works on a road crew, but doesn’t get paid until the end of next week. So right now, Daryl explained, he is strapped for cash and craving a beer.

They commiserated for a minute or two about the delights of a cold beer after a hard day of work, shook hands, and parted company.

As we pulled away from the gas station, I let a couple of minutes pass in silence, but then could hold back no longer. “Dude…,” I began. “Didn’t you feel weird about giving that guy money? I mean he TOLD YOU he was going to spend it on beer! He didn’t even try to say he needed food for his baby or anything noble like that. So what’s the deal?”

My friend thought a minute and then said, “Yeah, that was a little different. But you know what? I decided that the thing that probably meant a lot more than the dollar I gave him was the simple connection we made. I know that most people he hits up for money probably just turn their backs, ignore him, and tell him to get lost. It wasn’t the money that mattered to me as much as the fact that I was able to look him in the eye and say, ‘Hey, man… I see you. You are somebody. You matter.’”

It reminded me of the story of Hagar and Ishmael when Abraham sent them out into the desert with only one skin of water (the whole story is told in Genesis 21). Hagar was certain that she and her infant son would surely die, alone and forgotten in the harsh Israeli desert. But then God noticed her, provided for her and promised to look after them both.

In the end, when it comes to the basic necessities of life, I am not sure that I would ever put beer on that list. And so in that sense, you couldn’t say that the dollar bill my friend pulled from his wallet provided any of life’s necessities for Daryl.

But I think I came to see that the other gift my friend gave Daryl was much more valuable than any gift of money might have been.

The other gift he gave Daryl was the gift of CONNECTION. And hopefully in that gift of connection, he also gave him the gift of hope.

 

Dear God… help me make a connection today with someone who currently feels disconnected and alone. AMEN.


3 Responses to “Connections”


  1. August 9, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Do you think that Daryl gave your friend anything?

    • August 9, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Great question and great point. I would have to say absolutely yes. Daryl gave him a valuable human connection and the opportunity to “put his money where his mouth is” in terms of his faith.

      • August 9, 2016 at 4:52 pm

        In my six years of jail and prison ministry I often found that I learned more from the inmates than they learned from me. Living in downtown KC these past 6 years has caused me to wonder if the Daryls in our communities have more to teach me than I can teach them. I appreciate the example your friend gave me for how I might engage a Daryl or two in my community. Thanks for sharing.


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