Some experiences stay with us for a life time . . . wheth- er we know it or not.
Millie and I are fans of a TV show that has in its opening credits the skyline of the city of Chicago. Millie asked me once “is
the ground. As we were checking out of the hotel, my mother and brother and I sat in the lobby of the hotel as my dad was checking us out. I noticed that near the lobby there was a bar with small area with pinball machines. I also noticed that there was a man in the area with the pinball machines kneeling near the end of one of the ma- chines. At first, I thought he was working on the machine. I looked closer and saw that he wasn’t dressed for winter and that he also had a large backpack next to him on the floor. Then I realized that he was praying. He then crossed himself and stood up. He next took a basket of popcorn that was on top of the pinball machine right in front of him and emptied the day-old popcorn into his handkerchief and put it into his backpack. He then looked from side to side and quickly left.
I didn’t realize what I had seen at the time, at that point.
“That really Chicago?” It was.
I then told her that I had been there three times in my life. The sec- ond and third times were during the summer of 1989 when I went to the East coast to work at summer camp in Massachusetts. I had travelled by bus through Chicago both on the way there and then on the way back. The first time, however, had a moment within it that resurfaced as Millie and I spoke.
Growing up in a small town in South Dakota we didn’t have homeless people. Occasionally we would have people who “drifted through” on their way somewhere, but there wasn’t a permanent homeless population.
When I was in the sixth grade my family made a trip to Florida to go to Disneyworld. We took two weeks and drove there and back. On the return trip, we travelled through Chicago on our way to Minneapolis, MN before returning home. I re- member we stayed in a hotel in downtown Chica- go. It was early December and there was snow on
in my life, I didn’t realize that the man was homeless and desperate for food. When I was finally told that he was homeless and that that might be his only meal for the day, I began to feel my heart ache. I couldn’t understand the circumstances of how someone might find themselves in such a situation nor did I fully appreciate the magni- tude of his gratitude until I was much older.
I haven’t thought of that experience in a long time. I think on it now and realize the many things I must be grateful for. I give thanks to God for the blessings that I have received. I give thanks to God for placing within me the desire to reach out to those also in need and for the desire to fulfill the calling of Christ “to feed my sheep”. I give thanks also that God has placed us in a church that has made reaching out to those in need as a top priority.
As we continue in this year to reach out more and more, let us give thanks for the memories that move us and help us to reach out with the love and compassion of Christ.
In Christ, Pastor Scott