Something disturbed me greatly this week, and I have been unable to get it from my mind. When I drove to a store about a mile from here to get something the other day, I had an encounter with a young man there. His name is Steve, and he is 23 years of age, the same age as my middle daughter Melinda. He has a younger brother named Tim, who is 17, and he is trying his best to look after him. Steve has spent 2 years in prison for a violent fight that he was involved in back in Beaumont Texas. He did not offer me any details.
As I was about to enter the store, having not really noticed him standing about 30 feet away, he called to me. Thank God, I did not ignore him and walk away. He told me that he was homeless, and he sure looked and smelled that way, and that he could use some help. We only spoke for about 30 seconds. I took out my wallet, and gave him half of the money that I had taken out of the bank earlier in the day. As I started to walk away, I felt compelled to go back and talk to him further.
As we spoke, he told me about his younger brother who was minding their small amount of stuff under a bridge where they were sleeping. I looked at him. I mean I really looked at him. He had on broken glasses, as one arm was gone, and so his head was cocked a bit to the side to keep them on his head. He was a handsome young black man, and he really cared about his brother, and was trying to protect him.
Unlike my daughter, who has a university degree, a college diploma in her field of work, and a good job with a Canadian bank, Steve does not have his GED even, and with a prison record, cannot easily find work.
After we spoke for a few more minutes, I have him all but $10 of the rest of the money I had left in my wallet, and we both went our ways.
This incident left me bothered for the rest of the week. I took it to prayer, more about that in a bit, and he and Tim remained in my thoughts as well. But, as I am a foreigner here, and also unaware of how to properly deal with such a situation, I really did not know what to do. How could I help these young men in a way that would honour them and feed and clothe them? Just giving him cash did not seem to cut it.
I passed by the corner a few times this week, and looked for him, but he was not there. Then yesterday afternoon, I suddenly felt the urge to go and run a particular errand. As I passed that corner again, I saw him, and I was elated. I drove up to him, and got out of my car.
I asked him about his week, and he told me that he and Tim had gone to a hotel for one night to clean themselves up, and had also purchased some clean clothes. As well, he had been able to go downtown and get some proper identification for himself. Usually, Tim stays behind while Steve is panhandling and guards whatever they have. After they had bought the clothes, they felt secure that no one else knew where they were sleeping under the bridge, and so they both went out one day. While they were gone, someone took their new clothes, which they had left under the bridge so they would be able to use them as they needed, rather than get them dirty while they foraged or panhandled.
As I had been to the bank that morning, I gave him once again the money that I had in my wallet, and only kept $5 for myself this time. I then told him that I would contact a priest friend of mine down here to see what help we could find for them. My friend, Father Clement had been away on retreat all week, and so I could not get to see him earlier.
I contacted Father Clement by email last evening, and he pointed me back to another friend that I had not thought about in this instance, who I now hope to see later this morning at Mass.
I have prayed about this situation all week, and in my anxiety for these two young fellows, have been caught up in my failings to do more for them, rather than trust God for their needs, with me being a willing participant in His resolution of their challenges, if he so desires, rather than the prime mover.
This morning I read Monsignor Charles Pope's blog posting at the Archdiocese of Washington about today's Mass readings, which were really about prayer.
As always, the good Monsignor wrote eloquently and thoughtfully about the topic. He highlights 6 practices for prayer and some thoughts about each. The 6 practices are:
1) The Problem for PrayerIn this particular case, I have the Problem. I have given it SOME Priority (need to work on that one), had completely forgotten about the Power of my prayers for these young men, was feeling lonely in the situation because I had not gone to a Partner (though now I have Father Clement praying with me, and will get my other friend involved today), have been Persisting, and will continue, and will await the Product of Prayer.
2) The Priority of Prayer
3) The Power of Prayer
4) The Partnership of Prayer
5) The Persistence of Prayer, and
6) The Product of Prayer.
Monsignor Charles ended his homily about prayer with two wonderful black Gospel songs that spoke to my heart as I hope they speak to yours.
The first one is from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and is called "I Can Go to God in Prayer".
If that don't set you on fire, your woods wet.
The second song is by the Georgia Mass Choir, with Dorothy Norwood as lead singer, and is called "Somebody Prayed for Me."
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for Steve and Tim.