He was squatting on the grassy median of the road when I pulled up to the red light. He had put down his frayed backpack and was bent over, concentrating on making a cardboard sign.
Austin has its share of homeless people, but there was something about the way he was using his marker, going over the word “hungry” again and again, that caught my attention. I rolled down my window.
“Are you hungry in general, or hungry right now?” I asked.
“Right now,” he said. “Really hungry.”
“You want a hamburger?” He nodded hard.
“How do you like it? Cheese, onions, pickles?”
I went around the corner to a drive-thru burger place and got him a couple of meals. Then I went into the grocers and picked up bottled water and a little cash.
When I returned and pulled into a parking lot, he came over. I got out of the car and we introduced ourselves and shook hands. I gave him the food and water, and handed him some money.
“You don’t need to give me money; you got me food. Why are you doing this?”
“I have kids,” I said.
“I’m thirty-one.” I would have guessed younger.
“I have kids older than you. And I’ve been through hard times. I know it’s scary.”
His eyes filled up. I told him I would pray for him, and see things getting better soon.
Maybe he took the $20 and shot up, but at least he ate first. I decided some time ago that I would stop and give when my intuition guided me, and I would let the person on the receiving end be responsible for how the gift was used. Some homeless people do drugs or alcohol. Some are mentally ill. But a lot of people have lost jobs, or gotten divorces and just fallen too far down into poverty to easily crawl back up.
It felt like I was doing so little, compared to his need, but I had an appointment I couldn’t reschedule. I said goodbye and drove away.
As I did, it came to me that it wasn’t anything I had given him that caused the tears. It was his need to connect. I wish I could have stayed and sat with him as he ate, and we could have talked more.
Please pray for him.
His name is Daniel.