Many, many years ago, when I first began working my job at my church, a young man came into the building very early in the morning. He carried only an old backpack and was just kind of wandering the hallways. He looked lost and alone. I remember being a bit fearful of him. Who was this stranger in my workplace? What did he want? Was he going to try to harm me or would he cause an uncomfortable scene? These are honest thoughts that ran through my brain as I reviewed the situation (I was alone at work at this point).
Here’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gone through the years: sometimes, you can’t help the thoughts that run through your brain, but you can decide how you react to those thoughts and how they guide your next steps.
So, I sent one of those quick prayer arrows up to God, asking God to help me be like Him. I approached this young man and asked how he was. “Not good,” he said. I asked him how I could help. He explained he was needing to reach out to a friend for help but the battery on his phone had died overnight. He needed to charge his phone but he didn’t have a charger. If he could only get it up to 5%, he could call his friend and then get the help he needed. I didn’t have a charging brick but at that time, but I often charged my phone by plugging it directly into my computer with a charging cord. Again, I remembered my hesitancy. It was one thing to have an engaging conversation with this young man in the hallways of my church, but to invite him to plug into my desk? That would break into my “security” bubble. Would that be wise? Would it be safe?
Sent up another arrow prayer to God and honestly, He probably chuckled. He knew I knew the answer.
“Come on in. Let me help.”
He plugged in his phone and I asked if he was hungry or thirsty (we usually had something in our church kitchen).
We went to the kitchen, found something to eat and drink and stood there chatting.
“I don’t like churches,” he said. “They scare me and I’m not sure God is real.”
“Tell me about that,” I said.
He talked and shared some personal stuff. He talked about being on his own for some time. I didn’t try to convert him. I didn’t tell him why I believe God is real. I just listened. And while I’m not even sure I knew this word at that time, I “lamented” beside him, with him.
In a little bit, his phone was charged and he said he’d be on his way. He asked for a Bible and I gave him one. Then he opened up his backpack and dug into the very bottom. He pulled out a little velvet bag and shook out some polished rocks. He said:
“I don’t have much, but I would love to give you one of my pretty rocks for your kindness.”
With tears in my eyes, I said:
“Thank you so much. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been offered,” as I took a pretty little pink rock.
He seemed to think I was perhaps overreacting but then I explained to him:
“I will keep this rock all of my days. It’ll sit on my desk and when I see it, I will remember you. And when I remember you, I will pray for you. I may forget your name (sadly, I have!) but I will not forget you. You will always have someone out there praying for you.”
Today I prayed:
“Dear Heavenly Father. Will You please see this young man wherever he is, whatever he is doing today? Will You help him to find joy in the midst of his surroundings? Will You bring him relief from whatever pains him? Will You give him hope for himself? Help him to feel Your love and your care and know that he matters. Amen.”