God’s Gentle Man

God’s Gentle Man

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

God’s Gentle Man

No man is poor who has friends.

~It’s a Wonderful Life

I was checking out a construction job site in one of the poorer sections of town at lunchtime, so it was deserted of the few workmen there. At this point just three walls were up on the building, which sat back and isolated, away from the main thoroughfare. I was taking a few measurements when a fellow casually walked up from off the street. At first glance I could tell he was not a workman, so I eyed him cautiously while asking politely if I could help him.

He said, “I just started in a new job, and I’m waiting for my first paycheck. My wife and little girl and I are staying in a motel. I worked all night and when I got back to the room they told me that if I don’t have payment for tonight right now, they’re gonna make us leave.”

I asked if he had checked with welfare and charity agencies for help. He replied he had, but they were slow in coming up with any money. After waiting a long time that morning for a return phone call, he felt he had to do something, so he started walking and asking for help.

As a Christian man, I like to think of myself as someone who will help those in need, but in Atlanta these kinds of requests are not uncommon. So sometime back my wife and I had decided that we would give to specific charities qualified to help such families, so that when we were confronted by such requests, we had an answer ready.

I expressed to the gentleman a simple “No.”

His response was surprising. “Thank you,” he said kindly, and turned and walked back out to the street.

Normally I would not have given it a second thought, but today this was not the case. Maybe it was his response, maybe it was his story, maybe it was the Holy Spirit, but something pulled at me to rethink what had just transpired—that maybe this time my response was wrong; maybe this gentleman had not just wandered up but maybe he was sent to me. It was out of the way, I was the only one here, and he was the only other person on the job site.

I tried to soothe my conscience with my self-righteousness, telling myself that I already help such people, that I cannot just give to anyone who shows up with a sad story. Believing that a certain amount of stewardship goes into handling our gifts normally justifies my reluctance to give to those who just walk up on the street and ask for money—but not this time.

I stayed on at the site for a few more minutes, finishing up what I had come to do, but the presence of this gentleman and the wrongness of my response kept gnawing at me. Finally, as I got into my truck to leave, I turned to what some of my friends had taught me—I prayed about this. Then I thought, “Let’s check this out. Let’s see if there really is a place nearby where he could rent a room for a family; if so, he’ll be there and then I’ll know I should help.”

After driving down the street in both directions and not finding any such place, I convinced myself that I was right; it was all just a story to get some cash and I could leave now knowing I had done right. So why did it feel so wrong?

Finally, after stopping once again in a parking lot, I put God to the test. “Okay,” I said out loud, “if You want me to help this gentleman, then You show him to me. If I see him I will help him.”

Convinced I had solved the problem, I started to pull out onto the street, squeezing between two buildings and pulling out across the sidewalk to see oncoming traffic. I looked right—nothing was coming. I looked left—and right into the eyes of the gentle man looking into my truck window. I’m sure he saw the shock and amazement on my face as he looked in at me in puzzlement. It took a second or two to regain my composure, but I finally found the button to lower the window. “Still need help?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s this place you’re staying?”

“Just down the road.”

“Get in.” It was a short ride and I had to make a few turns, but sure enough there was the motel, just as he’d said. As I drove up we saw his wife and daughter sitting in the lobby.

He said, “After working all night and walking all morning, I’d given up and was on my way back to get them when you picked me up.”

I gave him what cash I had, enough for one night and a meal for his family. He thanked me profusely, then said, “What can I do for you?”

I just said, “Keep me in your prayers, as I will you.”

Little did he know he had already done more for me than I for him.

~Richard Duello

Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2

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