I drove my usual route to work that gloomy Tuesday morning in January. It was 42 degrees, misty, and foggy in Dallas. I was nearing my office, a mile or so away. I drove under the overpass and approached a red light. Along the sidewalk strode a man about forty, in need of a shave, slender, carrying a small duffel bag. Nothing intimidating about him. He did not appear threatening. He just walked. But it was 42 degrees and he wore only a flannel shirt, jeans, and flip-flops with socks. If you can call them socks. They were more like holes held together with string.
I, a young, petite female, was alone in my car and afraid to offer a ride. I had maybe fifty cents in my wallet. I wondered what I could give him. I considered making a u-turn and running in to the convenience store to purchase something, anything to warm him, but feared he’d be gone before I returned. Just days before, I’d had a packing blanket in the trunk of my car. If only I hadn’t stored it away. All I had to offer was a prayer for his safety and comfort.
When I arrived at my office, I asked if anyone else had seen him. Though most had entered from the same direction at about the same time, they had not. I peered down to the street from my sixth floor window. I could see quite a distance, but the only people around were other workers scurrying in from the cold. Where had he gone? When I went out at lunch, I searched street corners. Surely, a homeless man in holey socks would be panhandling. There were no shelters in the area. He was gone!
A Colin Raye song played in my mind. “What if Jesus came back like that?” the song asks. “Where would He find our hearts are at? Would we let Him in or turn our backs? What if Jesus came back like that?” I had turned my back! The stranger was in need, and I had not assisted him in any way. I was unprepared.
When I returned home that evening, I packed the blanket back in my trunk. Then I took a brand new pair of my husband’s socks from his drawer and tucked them under the front passenger seat of my car. There those socks remained for five years.
I drove that same route to work every day, and each morning I hoped to see the man along the sidewalk. I prayed for him, that his circumstances had improved, and if I saw him again, I’d be prepared to clothe the King (Matthew 25:34-40, NIV).
The man didn’t ask for help. He appeared en route somewhere. He didn’t stop and glare at me and guilt me into rendering aid. I doubt he noticed me pass him by for his glance was directed at his steps. Though he did not physically get into my car, he has journeyed with me through the past ten years. I’ve often thought of the homeless man in holy socks and wondered what became of him, or if he was even real.
This angel appeared to me to remind me, “There will always be poor people in the land,” and to instruct me, “Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11, NIV).
I’ve seen other homeless people on street corners, under bridges. One woman approached me in a parking lot some time after this incident. She held a bird in a cage and wanted bus fare to get home. I’d just come out of a fast-food eatery. I gave her all my change, close to $20. We were beside a liquor store. Who knows if I helped or hindered her. I did my part. I gave when I perceived a need. What she did with it was her responsibility. I just didn’t want her to walk the thread right out of her socks.
"A Homeless Man in Holy Socks" originally appeared at Godz Anglz and was recently posted at Aim for Perfection Editing. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let's remember to BE Jesus to the world.