Sunday, June 3, 2012

Extending Grace

Yesterday in Toronto was one of the worst rain storms I've seen in a very long time.  60mph winds, power outages, Union Station flooded under 3' of water and raw sewage.  Transit shut down due to the floods.  Trees and power lines knocked down everywhere.  Just terrible!

When Bentley and I made our first trek for the day... we exited the building and turned down the side - as we usually do for the morning 'business'.  We were ducking the winds and rain being pounded in our faces when my eye caught movement from under an overhang where the dumpsters are kept.

There sat, huddled under a blanket, next to his shopping cart, which housed all of his worldly possessions; was a homeless man.  You could just see that he was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible as he huddled under the shelter from the horrible weather.

Now - clearly, this is not the first homeless person I have seen in my lifetime.  I grew up in downtown Toronto and have seen many - far too many people living on the streets.  Even as a young child, seeing them would make me sad - as young as 8 years old I would think to myself; "that is someone's son/daughter".

The reality is that we cannot help everyone, but I have always tried to give a couple of dollars here and there, when I was able.  As a society though, I think for the most part homeless people sort of blend into the background.  How many times have we stepped around that person sleeping on a grate?

Anyhow - After Bentley had finished his business ... we returned upstairs to our apartment, and I went about my morning routine ... but it wasn't routine - I just could not get this man out of my mind.

I had some errands to do, and began to get myself ready to head back outside.  My hand on the doorknob, my mind still on this man ... with my coat on ... I shut the door and turned into my kitchen and picked up one of those stainless steel travel mugs and proceeded to make a hot chocolate.

With the mug in hand, I headed out to run my errands ... stopping at the back, where I had seen the man huddled earlier that morning.  As I approached, I could seen him shrinking under his blanket ... probably praying that I did not see him.  Probably fearing that I would send him from his shelter in the storm.

I made eye contact and extended my hand, offering the mug to him.  He looked confused.  I said simply "Hot Chocolate".   He looked unsure ..... I repeated ... "Hot Chocolate" and he took the mug, with barely a whisper that was  understood "Thank you!" .... "You're very welcome!" I replied and turned to go about my business.

I thought about that man throughout my day.  And when Bentley and I went out for our afternoon walk - or swim in the storm.  I - with purpose - took the same route to see if that man was still there ... he was not.

This story is not to blow my own horn or pat myself on the back.  Indeed this story is about that man and about extending grace to a fellow human being.

Thankfully my life - although extremely challenging at times - has not led me to the place where he sat.  But the truth of the matter is that the majority of people in our modern world are only a paycheck or two away from being homeless .... from being that man, huddled next to his shopping cart ... in the cold rain and blustering winds.

I know that I would hope someone would extend grace to me, and I challenge each of you whom these words may find;  take a moment to give thanks for your good fortune ...and to pray for those who are down on their luck ... extend kindness ... pay it forward  .... and .... never forget how close you are from being that man.

I know that I won't!