What My Daughters Taught Me About Loving a Homeless Man
Last week, Washington, DC, was abuzz with excitement over the blizzard that was forecasted to dump two feet of snow on the city. The snow was just beginning to fall when I looked out the window and saw something across the street that surprised me: a homeless man was sitting against a brick wall, drinking something.
“Hey girls,” I said, “look out the window.”
My two little girls went to the window, and I said, “That’s a homeless man, girls. You should pray for him. He needs to get in a warm place, or he’s going to die out there.”
Both girls earnestly prayed for the man, and I sat back down on the couch.
The Girls Take it Up a Notch
“Daddy, I care for him,” said Renee, my four-year-old. “What are we going to do to help him?”
“I don’t know — maybe he’ll move after it starts snowing some more.”
He didn’t. In fact, as it began snowing harder, the man laid down on the ground and got under a big, blue blanket. At that point, I knew we had to do something, but I didn’t want to get too involved.
“We have to help him, Daddy,” said Daniela, my six-year-old. “We should let him come to our house.”
“Umm — he needs to get to a shelter,” I said, feeling a little uncomfortable as I looked at my girls, both of whom looked like they could cry.
“Could you take him some food?” asked Renee.
“I don’t know about that,” I said, imagining the guy jumping out from under his blanket and attacking me. So I called the police, who said they would call the Hypothermia Hotline, but after five minutes, no one came, and the snow was driving harder.
Cold and Empty
By this point, I was fully on board with helping the guy, so I went out into the street and flagged down a police officer and asked her to help. She stopped another officer, and they went over to the man (pictured above), asked him to go inside the nearby police precinct where they would help him get shelter. When he complied, Renee said, “We were God’s helpers.” I agreed and was relieved, but I also felt corrected by how much nudging it took to get me to assist him in a meaningful way.
The Word says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16, ESV).
I heard that verse in my head as my daughters were asking me to help the man, but I still resisted going overboard to help him. They felt compassion that was unrestrained by calculations of risk. It’s the kind of compassion that drove Jesus into a world that would rip Him to pieces in response to His love. No doubt, we’re called to operate in wisdom, but at some point we have to recognize that our “wisdom” is sometimes just a front for fearful rationalization.