I was walking to dinner with a couple of friends recently in San Antonio. As we headed to dinner on the north end of the River Walk, we were approached by a gentleman that described himself as homeless and hungry. Frank looked the part except for an overstuffed case that I later learned carried Christian books. Since we were on our way to dinner, I invited him to come along.
You see, I learned that from my brother. A while back in Atlanta, I gave my dessert to a homeless man. I was feeling pretty smug and self-righteous (it was bread pudding after all) when I found out my brother had taken a homeless man to dinner. I had given away something I was too full to eat. My brother honored a man with his time, as well as buying him food.
It was a good lesson for me and I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity in San Antonio.
As we walked, I invited my new friend to share his story - a demanding and exacting father; brothers he’d lost contact with; active Military Service and the Reserves; and a wife that left when he accepted Jesus decades ago. The longer we walked, the more nervous he seemed to get. Then he shared with me that this was prime time to sell his books (I don’t think he realized how far we were walking to dinner). I gave him some money for which he seemed genuinely grateful, and he was on his way to peddle his books.
It wasn’t until the next day I realized I missed another opportunity. What if I would have asked him how much money he made on his best night selling books? How much could that have been - probably not that much. I could have given him enough cash to equal his best night selling books. Then, maybe, he could have enjoyed a meal that wasn’t on the run - a meal with a new friend that was truly interested in him.
I’m amazed at how wimpy my compassion is sometimes.
I have always regretted a time in a grocery store when the lady in front of me had to decide which of her items to keep because she couldn’t afford them all. I had the opportunity to cover what she couldn’t afford… another missed opportunity. But, the next time the same opportunity presented itself at another grocery store, I was able to act immediately.
I don’t reveal this to belittle myself, but to encourage you. I’m learning. And if I can learn to have a heart that overflows with compassion in an instant - anyone can.