Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Lesson in Kindness

1995. The combined youth groups from several churches in the Seattle area took the train from Seattle to San Diego, spent the night in Chula Vista, California, and then continued south to Tijuana, Mexico, where we worked with communities in the area. We were working with an organization called YUGO (Youth Unlimited Gospel Outreach), which facilitates youth missions trips in Mexico, both to serve the communities in that area and to equip American youth for ministry. It was an amazing week. After that week was done, we headed north a bit to unwind at Disneyland. I spent the day with my friend Dan, and we had a blast.

Photo taken at California Adventure
20 years later, in 2015

That evening, we had just left the park when we met a man from a local Baptist church, who was raising funds for his church's women's ministry. As we felt that was a good cause, we both contributed. The gentleman commented that this was (understandably) very awkward for him, and he had gone out searching for two reasons: His wife had convinced him, and he felt God's leading that there was something important that he needed to do. I believe we found out what that was.

Dan and I continued on toward the hotel. As it was late and we hadn't eaten, but most restaurants were closed at that time, we stopped at the local 7-Eleven to get something to eat. As we were leaving, a homeless man stopped us and asked for money for food. This was a bit more of a quandary for us. I grew up in the Philippines, where many of the beggars are in syndicates where they have to take their collections back to someone in charge, so giving money doesn't help (or anyway, that's how it was in the 80s). In the Philippines, we learned to give them food instead (we kept some in the car for that purpose). There are also a lot of homeless in Seattle. I have never quite known how to help, as I don't know what they will do with the money if I give it to them. At times it has been very clear to me that they were not intending to use it for the stated purpose. Other times it has been less clear. Sometimes I do give them money. But they very clearly need help. Dan and I were not sure what to do, and as we were trying to figure it out, the gentleman we had met earlier found us. He joined the conversation. Obviously he wasn't about to ask the homeless man to contribute, but he could also see our situation. That man then did something I will never forget, and which I believe was the reason he felt God's prodding to go out in the middle of the night. He told the homeless man, "I can't give you money, but I can take you in to get some food." He then took the man in to 7-Eleven, where he got him something to eat. Dan and I returned to the hotel, thankful and having learned an important lesson.

A couple years later, I was in downtown Seattle, where a man along the side of the road stopped me and asked for some money for food. I thought back to the lesson I had learned in Anaheim, and I asked him what he would like to eat. I went to a nearby convenience store that had some fried chicken (his request), and I selected the biggest piece I could see, and brought it out to him.

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