As I prepare to preach on Sunday on the subject of Being a Voice for the Voiceless looking at how we treat the poor and victims of injustice, God dropped a good illustration in my lap.
I took the kids to Pizza Hut Tuesday evening. Not that the Hut is my idea of a good meal, but we like to encourage our daughter to read (and PH gives free personal pan pizzas for reading) and it was a way to get the children out of Kristi's hair while she finished an important book editing assignment.
Now I am not sure if it was because we chose a PH in a transitional part of town (near a mall and USF, but called "Suitcase City"), because PH regularly attracts people needing help or because God wanted my children to witness a person in need, but we found ourselves confronted by a drunken man on a bicycle asking us for help with food. He was with a woman and leaving the Hut when we arrived. Now, usually homeless persons and pan-handlers do not ask for help when I am with my children, but this man must have been bold or desperate.
He asked for help with dinner and I was able to give him one of the gift cards we had in our car from McDonald's (although I dislike McDonald's I understand it is on every corner in America and therefore a good spot to send people to- yes, I would rather give them an In&Out card). We have chosen as a family to use McDonald's gift cards and have our children take an active role in distribution. If alone, I would have offered to buy the couple pizza, but my daughter was nervous (with good reason). We were able to give them a chance for a meal (yes, he could sell it, but this is better than cash) along with a list of sites Metropolitan Ministries distributes food, plus information on how to get the help they needed.
Interestingly, upon saying goodbye to the couple (and having a drunken bike rider tell my children to stay in school so they can have a car one day) we went inside. As we waited to eat a man came inside asking for 75 cents because his car was out of gas. He chose to ask us for help. We gave him a dollar and he left. It was strange indeed.
I mention this because it is quite bizarre for such an occurrence two times in a matter of moments, especially involving my children. It was a chance to explain what I do for a living to my kids and God's desire for our obedience in showing mercy to those in need. It also reminded me how moved a person is by a simple act, such as taking a few minutes to buy gift cards from McDonald's. It tells them I was prepared and thought about helping them, as opposed to handing them cash out of guilt or sending them on their way without help.