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Oct 05, 2018 228 0 Kerri Lynn Bishop
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Today, I Met a Man

Today I met a man. He has got to be a foot taller than me. He has quite a few pounds on me as well and I am no longer the perfect size six I so want to be! I met this man at a grocery store about twenty minutes from where I live. Actually, to be more precise, I met him in the parking lot outside my grocery store or, to be even more accurate, I met him as I was leaving the parking lot.

You see this man was actually sitting in the median between the entrance and exit of this particular shopping center. He sat on a scooter-/walker-type thing holding up a sign that read, “Disabled veteran. Need help with gas, food, kids.”

I pulled up in the lane next to his chair. I did not make eye contact. Seeing “those people” often makes me want to cry. The problem of poverty is so overwhelming! How could we ever hope to combat it? Even Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I am a struggling single mom of five boys. What difference can I make?

I slowed as I pulled up to the red light. I was the only car waiting, and I was glad to pass this nameless man sitting in the median without having to stop by his side, without having to look at him. I reverted to childishly hoping that if I did not see him maybe he would not see me.

Childish. Foolish. Selfish. Me.

I waited for the light to turn green. I thought of the turkey I had just asked the cashier to put back. I could pay for it another day. We are still on a tight budget and I buy only what I can pay cash for.

I thought of the donations I had just made leaving the grocery store to the Stuff the Bus campaign which would donate food to Catholic Charities. The bag I handed over was not much, but I had literally just donated a canister of oatmeal, a box of pasta, and a bag of brown sugar. The brown sugar was not on the requested food list, but I felt like a bit of a rebel buying it and smiled, hoping it might help some family make Christmas cookies together this season. I had done enough, more than many would.

If the veteran in the median needed help, he could go to the front of the store where they were stuffing that bus. I was on my way to Adoration. My rosary beads were in my pocket. I would say a prayer for this disabled Vet, this nameless man, but what more could I do? I had done enough.

I watched the light turn green. But while I was playing the Pharisee, patting myself on the back for all the good I do, another voice was speaking gently to me, calling me, telling me to go to the man whose eyes I would not meet. I pulled into the intersection and turned my vehicle around, heading down the entrance ramp. The man should have stayed on my left, but he had picked up his chair/walker and began shuffling his way toward the parking lot.

I drove toward where he met another man standing by a little, beat-up vehicle. The new man popped the trunk as I pulled into a space a few yards away still unsure of what I was to do. I sat awkwardly in the car, fidgeting, stalling and feeling a bit like a stalker as the two men talked and occasionally sent curious glances my way.

I was uncomfortable. They would think I was stupid. I was sure of it. What kind of high and mighty person did I think I was approaching them? And for what? I had already spent all my cash. I reached into my car’s ashtray. There was $3 I had saved for emergency milk money. I had one more in my pocket: $4.

That is all I had today. I wondered about the two suspicious men. What if they were scammers? What if they used the money for alcohol or drugs or something worse? What if they did not really need it? What if …?

The what ifs threatened to take over but there was a quiet, gentle, “What if…?” I heard as well. What if the man did really need it? What if he did really need money for food, gas, kids? What if he is not a scammer?

I thought of the rosary beads in my pocket, the ones I was about to use at Adoration. They were a cheap plastic set I had found the day before in an old pocketbook. I had other rosary beads. Did I need them? What good were they doing in my pocket?

I opened my car door, fought down the uncomfortableness in my belly that told me I was foolish, and listened instead to the gentle, quiet voice. “Go.” I approached the man from the median without knowing what to say. He was still seated and I put my hand out and touched his shoulder, “Thank you for your service,” I said as I would to any of our nation’s veterans.

His eyes softened and a spark lit inside. He put his hand out. I took it and we shook introducing ourselves. He was not unnamed at all. He was Anthony Monroe. Big Anthony’s hand was dark, smooth, cool and massive. It enveloped mine quickly and held mine with a tenderness that belied the giant man’s great size, stumbling shuffle and stuttered speech.

We spoke for a few minutes. I told him I was a single mom of five boys on my way to prayer and that I would pray for him. I wished I had more to give him as I pressed the $4 and my plastic rosary beads into his hand. All doubt about Anthony washed away. I shook the other man, Peter’s hand. I could not read him when I looked into his eyes but hoped he was good to Big Anthony. I stepped back to talk with Anthony again. He told me he had four children. I did not stay long enough to learn more. I did not stay long. I left these two men who were so different from me in the parking lot, placing the chair and the sign in their trunk, Big Anthony leaning heavily on the car as he walked to his door.

I drove off and entered the little chapel up the road. I knelt before our Lord and began the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most holy Rosary minus the beads I had planned to use. I wiped away tears as they fell.

I am guessing there are some who would say I was stupid for approaching two men I do not know. I value myself enough as a creation of God to know I am expected to be careful, to treat myself well, avoiding unnecessary risks and respecting the dignity the Creator gives each of us. But it was daylight and the parking lot was populated.

I am guessing there are some who would say I was naive and probably just got scammed and I know it is possible. The $4 I contributed is not going to make or break any addiction while I can hope that some part of the love I tried to show might if it comes to that.

I am guessing there are some who would think I must have felt good about myself for leaving my comfort zone and making a little donation, but I felt no pride for having reached out. Instead, I found sadness, overwhelmed with disappointment.

I knelt before the Cross praying the mysteries, reflecting on the first decade and Jesus’ time in the Garden. I did not think of how beautiful a garden should be but how it was such a place of pain for our Savior. At the fourth decade, I reflected on Jesus’ carrying of the cross and of how earth should be such a place of beauty yet is often such a place of suffering. I thought of how heavy are the crosses so many bear.

I thought of Big Anthony and how, in my nervousness, I talked when I should have listened. I had pressed the $4 and my newly found rosary beads into his cool hand, but I should have stayed longer. I should have listened to his stories, taken some of his burden and invited him to join me in prayer, if nothing else.

I thought of our veterans and how so many are hurting and alone. I thought of how much a single mom has to be thankful for that would not be possible without the sacrifice of those willing to give me opportunity and freedom. I thought of the trouble in our nation and how divided we are. I thought of how much good we could do if we looked into each other’s eyes, shook hands and realized each of us is named and called by God.

I thought of how we look at one another with such suspicion, presuming others guilty without first seeking to know them. I thought of a Facebook friend who suggested we exchange news feeds so I could see her liberal view and she could see my conservative view. I had not written her back yet because I knew exchanging news feeds would not be enough. I was thinking of asking her to spend time with me and allow me the gift of spending time with her instead.

Today, I realized that spending time with others needs to go far deeper than what I had thought of proposing. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are called to live the Gospel and make a difference in this world. That is impossible when we see first with suspicion: when we see the veteran in the median as a scammer, a drug addict, a threat, when we choose the worst attributes and cast nets over the masses.

I do not know if I made any difference in the lives of Big Anthony or Peter, but they made a difference in me. I am grateful for the few minutes in that parking lot and for how my views have deepened my certainty that we are called to reach out to one another. I am most grateful for the gentle whisper that told me to “Turn around. Go.” What a gift it was for me to get to meet these men, two children of God. How I wish I had been a better representative of His love for them.

The next time I pull over to speak to a homeless veteran or another of God’s children, I will be more prepared. I may not have any money or may decide not to offer it even if I do, but I must offer to listen more, speak less and thank God for all His children. Listen for Him telling you to “Turn around. Go.” Seek out those who are different than you, those who are struggling and those who need to be shown true love. Offer God’s love both in prayer and in concrete ways.

Big Anthony and Peter, wherever you are tonight, I am praying for you now and hope to listen to your stories when we meet again in Heaven one day. Thank you for a few moments of your time today.

Kerri Lynn Bishop

© is a single mom of five boys. Bishop hopes to reach out to other divorced and hurting Catholics and let them know that there is Hope and Love in the Catholic Church. Today, she and her five sons work for everything that comes their way, but they are also successful, happy, and faithful. They enjoy camping, sports, and (highly competitive) board games. Reprinted with permission from www. SingleMomSmiling.com.

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