Driving to Nora, part of the north side of Indianapolis to purchase gift cards for my children at Whole Foods, I noticed a homeless man holding a sign. He was sitting on a stack of plastic crates in the grassy median at the entrance to Nora Plaza.
Stopping at the light, I rolled down my window and asked if I could get him something to eat.
He replied, "No, but I would like a cup of coffee - black."
"Ok, I'll be back."
Circling through the light I drove to the Starbucks a short distance away. Since I do not drink coffee, ordering a large cup was a new experience. Entering the store, I quickly placed my order and decided to purchase a gift card in case the man got hungry or thirsty later in the day.
Carrying the large, hot coffee in one of those controversial bright red cups, I felt like I was in a church processional, walking down the aisle, carrying a candle of light and love. I walked through the parking lot, and dodged a few cars to reach the man and make my delivery.
On that rainy, mid-November day, the wind was blowing with force creating a wind advisory that I heard on the radio. These blustery conditions made walking a challenge. Seeing the man sitting in this weather mess for a period of time evoked compassion.
He must have been a tall man because when I reached his perch we met each other at eye level. I handed him the cup, and took note of the layers of clothing, his bloodshot eyes heavy with fatigue. His large, rough looking hands took a break from holding the sign that described his status in life.
He reached gratefully for the coffee, my candle of light on a gray day.
I showed him the gift card. "You can use this to get something to eat or more coffee."
"Thank you. Have a nice day. Make it a good one!"
Not expecting any response I was surprised to receive a blessing for my day. Moving toward my car, I noticed a pile of plastic grocery store bags and a backpack on the opposite side of the street from where the man sat. These must be his earthly possession gathered in one spot.
I reached my car and turned on the heat.
I don't know the circumstances of this man's life, but I do know that Jesus told us to care for one another - not just our family or friends who live in homes, but for the least and those on the fringe regardless of what brought them there.
When I arrived home, I went to my desk to read the Upper Room devotional for November 18. The thought for the day was: "Today I will offer hospitality to strangers in my path." The scripture listed was Hebrews 13:1-3: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."
Wow, I was right on target in my mission without knowing "my commission for the day." I pray my beacon of love and light contained in a bright crimson coffee cup will be a sign of hope and love for this child of God, perched on a stack of plastic crates at a busy intersection. - and that he can "make this day a good one" despite his circumstances.
Prayer: God, you bring us people each day who need a kind word or smile or a more tangible expression of love. Give us boldness to keep our eyes open so we may show hospitality to all in your name. Amen.