When we rolled off route last night in search of the local Super 8 motel and passed the Eugene Christian Fellowship, we suspected it might be more than just a coincidence. We wanted to be surrounded by plenty of services while we took a break from cycling. And we always like to find a good local church within walking distance when we roll in on a Saturday evening.
Just a mile or so down the road, we had arrived at our destination for the evening. A walk across the street would bring us to the front door.
Then, as we prepared to cross the busy intersection, there he was: a young man, seemingly under the influence of some foreign substance, with a bag of belongings and cardboard sign upon which was scrawled his hard luck story. The details weren’t needed to understand that all was not well. The scene spoke for itself.
He was collecting funds in a small container from whomever was willing to donate. He seemed too young for this trip. He was accompanied by an older man who appeared to have walked the same path, which made it awkward to engage the younger man one on one.
As Debbie and I awaited the tick-tock of the walk signal, I rummaged through my handlebar bag in search of a card that would connect him to TheHopeLine. In some respects, opening the handlebar bag seemed counterintuitive, as there were valuables inside. Thoughts went through my head about the vulnerability that Debbie and I share as bicycle tourists. Yet, our lot was much different from his. We had everything we needed, including contentment, one another, and peace with God. He was obviously down and out, angry, and appeared to be panhandling–but who was I to judge?
Regardless, when the white pedestrian walk signal appeared, Debbie moved toward more comfortable surroundings on the other side of the street, while I lingered to share the card with the young man, and to further instruct or encourage him should the opportunity arise. I was relieved Debbie had crossed.
“Here,” I said, as I handed him the card. “They’ll help you here. Just give them a call.” I knew a toll-free call was well within his reach. Just a few seconds earlier, another compassionate soul shared some of her bounty with him from the three-inch crack in her car’s window, which he ran to and gobbled up like an undernourished pet whose owner had just returned home.
Mine was another form of compassion. TheHopeLine approach is often one of tough love. If you have the compulsion to get better, or you can’t find your way and just need a nudge in the right direction, then TheHopeLine can help you–and its coaches are looking forward to doing just that.
As I turned to make my own way across the busy street, I encouraged him again. “Give them a call. They’ll help you.”
What I heard in return was, “I don’t want to hear nothing about Jesus or <the Spanish pronunciation of Jesus>. I’ve had it with that.” He was obviously very angry and probably would need some help to unravel that when he was ready to. I’m not sure how he connected TheHopeLine with God, but he did.
“Just tell them that when you call,” I said. “They’ll still help you.”
Then, I was across the street, wondering if Debbie or I would talk or chat with him online soon…or whether his anger would prevent him from reaching out for help that could truly change his situation.
Should I have done more? I wondered.