Lessons from a Homeless Man

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My family and I were in church for the early morning Sunday service. Our precious son who is on the autism spectrum, suddenly got up from his chair and said he wanted to go to the restroom. I followed after a few minutes to make sure he was alright. When I walked into the rest room there was a homeless man in there, he was looking into the mirror in the restroom, talking to himself. He saw me waiting patiently for my son. We got talking and he was sharing what he was going through. I really felt for him. Life was very hard for him, sleeping rough on the streets of Redding, California. He had come into the church that morning because he was hungry and on a Sunday, the church feeds the homeless, giving out free meals. He was grateful for a hot meal. It was cold out there, that Sunday morning. I just prayed for him.

The man in the mirror suddenly became sharply focused, turned to me and asked:  ‘Is that your boy?’ I said yes he was. He came up to me, hugged me and said ‘can I pray for him?’ I said absolutely yes. He put his head on my chest and not knowing anything about my son, he prayed: ‘God, please make him better.’ It was a simple, uncomplicated, wonderful prayer from the heart – I believe it went straight to heaven like a dart.

I learnt several lessons from this homeless man that morning. His actions spoke volumes. Sometimes those who have less, give more – despite the fact that he didn’t have any money, he gave from the depths of his heart – he must have felt something for my son who would have walked by, not giving this man any eye contact. This is also a leadership lesson. He wasn’t a big name ‘in lights’, had fame or fortune. He wasn’t a cut above the rest of the flock. He was one of ‘us,’ humanity. This man made an impact on me. I saw him as a leader, not a stereotype. Leadership starts with influencing just one person. He certainly influenced me.

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He prayed with such compassion and kindness for our son. I was deeply moved by this simple, honest prayer. I am sure it touched the heart of his Heavenly Father. I thanked God for this man, his kindness and care – a vulnerable person having compassion for another vulnerable person. There was a leadership shift in that restroom, that Sunday morning. He had an equal place at the table, referred to in Psalm 23, prepared by God, in the presence of our enemies. They certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He would be seated by the King. The guest of honor. I could seem him with a crown on his head, at that table. A crown given by the King for all eternity. He went that extra mile, way above and beyond, by reaching out in compassion to a young man on the autism spectrum. It’s also a lesson for all of us to reach out to the broken, because the broken will certainly reach out to us – sometimes in the most unexpected way.

Ivan Corea

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