Sunday, May 29, 2011

One Mans Opinion

One Mans Opinion 5/29/2011
By Dewaine Shoulders

It's Memorial Day weekend, and we should all remember those that have sacrificed so much for this nation. From our troops currently serving across this planet, to the ones that have long since faded into history. We also should remember the police officers and fire fighters that do their jobs to keep us safe here at home on a daily basis. They work thankless jobs, but they are also warriors in the cause of freedom.

Now, having said that, I have a personal story to share. It happened last night and I'm still trying to process what happened.

Those people who know me know that I'm someone who cares about people, animals, and lost causes. I have banged my head against a brick wall on more than one occasion, trying to save something, or make a difference when I can. But what happened last night was a bit strange. I'll explain...

Saturday night, date night. My lady friend and I, along with her two sons, went out for a quasi-family night of dinner and Putt Putt. We all had fun, and then I decided that ice cream was in store. We drove to the Dairy Queen and loaded up on shakes and malts, having a great time.

An All-American night of fun.

Okay, it was time to take the kiddies home and here we are in the car, heading back to the lady friends house when we came to a red light. Now, not being familiar with where I'm talking about, I'll try to explain it the best I can. There is a Kroger in a strip mall on the right side of the road where we were sitting at the light, and then a bit further ahead on the right side of the road is a Walmart. We were at the light in front of the Walmart, already having passed the entrance to the Kroger.

While sitting at the light. I heard a voice in my head saying, "Turn around, go back and have money ready." Without thinking twice, I glanced back to see if anything was coming from behind me and quickly got into the turning lane to Walmart. From there, I turned right and then another right onto a side street that leads back to the Kroger parking lot. I reached around and took my wallet from my pocket and pulled a five dollar bill out (all I had left in cash). My lady friend and her kids are looking at me and wondering what the hell I was doing. I tried to explain it quickly and came to the entrance to Kroger. As I turned right once again, thanks to the headlights of the car, I saw a man standing there. A hood was drawn over his head, in a pair of raggedy shorts. He held a sign that looked like it was drawn in pencil.

'Homeless - Please help.'

Now, it's dark out. This is 10:30 at night, away from the parking lot lights and I can read the sign as plain as if it were day. Don't ask me how, because I have no idea. My glasses aren't that good, and the headlights could not have illuminated the sign that well.

I stopped in front of the man and rolled down the window. The man continued to lean against a concrete embankment. He had no clue I was there. I called out, "Are you hungry?"

He slowly raised his head. He had been asleep. He looked exhausted, malnourished and from what my lady friend told me later, dehydrated. She's in the medical field, and I'll take her at her word. He wobbled slightly. His legs were mere bones covered in skin. His red hoodie was filthy. I could tell that this man had been sleeping outdoors. And he seemed truly embarrassed. This isn't a man that normally begs for money. This man looked to be totally down on his luck and barely alive.

He said, "I'm sorry to be begging." He explained that he'd lost his job, his home, his wife and children all within a few months and had nowhere to go and no money to do anything with. He looked as weak as anyone I had ever seen and needed to be fed desperately. I reached across the car and handed him a $5 bill and said, "Go get something to eat."

Again, he looked embarrassed. He again apologized and said, "God bless you!" upon seeing the money wasn't a dollar bill. I said "God bless you and good luck" and drove away. I saw him slowly walking toward the Burger King across the parking lot as I looked in the rear view mirror.

I drove away... And then it hit me.

I hadn't seen this man standing there as I passed moments before. In fact, he was in a place where I wouldn't have seen him in broad daylight. How the heck did I know he was there? He was standing in the dark, away from the lights of the parking lot. How could I have known that man even existed?

The voice in my head had told me to, "Turn around, go back and have money ready."

Was it God that told me? I don't know, but whatever happened, I may have saved that man's life last night. I don't know if he had eaten in days. From the looks of him, he hadn't. But if he was going to die that night, at least he'd have a full belly and the knowledge that someone out there gave a damn about him.

Whether his story was true or not really doesn't matter. What mattered to me was that I did something I wouldn't have done under normal circumstances. Driving in the dark, hunting down someone I didn't know that could have killed all of us. You think about it after the fact and it's scary. He could have had a gun, or been some nutcase that could have tried to yank one of the kids from the car. But none of that happened. Here was a man that needed help, and I did what I could at that moment. Again, in other circumstances, I would have never seen him. But that voice in my head had led me to him.

"Turn around, go back and have money ready."

Whatever the reason I felt compelled to show this one human being any compassion is still a mystery. I have asked myself several times since then if maybe I spotted him out of the corner of my eye and felt sorry for him, or if God truly spoke to my heart and led me there. I believe that it was God that spoke to my heart and allowed me to show this man some small bit of kindness. Again, I don't think my eyes are that good to have spotted him in the darkness otherwise.

"Turn around, go back and have money ready."

The lesson learned here was that both of the kids thought what I had done was noble and pretty cool. My lady friend did so as well. As for me, I tend to think God knows my heart, and how I root for the underdogs and can't turn away someone in need.

Well, there's the story. In processing it in my head and now with writing the words down, I think God speaks to all of us from time to time - those of us who truly believe in Him. And I hope that next time He chooses to speak to me, I can help someone else out. Not because I think I have to do it, but because I want to do it.

God only knows that we all need help from time to time.

And Memorial Day will not only be a day that I remember all of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, and those that serve and protect us daily - the cops and the firefighters - because they care enough to give of themselves to keep us safe and free, but a day that I'll think of one homeless man.

That one homeless man, wherever he is today, is in my prayers too, along with the troops, past and present, that are out there doing what's necessary. Each of us are called upon to do what's necessary occasionally. Whether it's buying a soldier a meal in a restaurant, or helping some homeless person eat when they haven't got two nickels to rub together.

I just hope God will speak to someone else to make sure that the homeless man I helped is fed again and can make it back to life like he knew it before the hard times fell upon him.

Times are tough in the world today, and sometimes a little compassion can go a long way. Make a difference if you can. It's not the liberal thing or the conservative thing to do... It's the American thing to do.

May God bless us all.

Dewaine Shoulders - 5/29/2011

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