This is a story I wrote about an amazing experience I had over my lunch hour just 2 days ago. This experience really touched my heart and my soul and I wanted to share it with you.
Ever since hearing John Fuller’s sermon last Sunday at Prairie Lakes Church, I have been thinking a lot about being in the flow of God. God gives us money so that we can use it to bless other people. God shows us love so that we can in turn show that love to others so that God is flowing through us to bless other people’s lives. When we don’t pass these blessings God puts into our lives on to others, we become a plug and the flow that God had intended becomes disrupted.
During my thoughts about that simple description, I have come to the conclusion that I have been a plug to that flow for the majority of my life. I have put myself first way too often and as a result, I have denied others of receiving God’s blessing as well. In addition, I have also been denying myself of many blessings by not letting God’s love flow through me.
On Sunday night, while meeting with my Fuel group, I decided that in addition to committing to the 90 day tithing challenge, I wanted to do something more. I wanted to engage in some sort of giving experiment. I wanted to be very open to things going on around me in my everyday life. I wanted to try to find someone that I could help out with some sort of financial gift that would be a way of using the money that God provides me in my life. One important part of this was that I did not want the person to know that I had given them money because I didn’t want any of the focus to be on me, I wanted it all to be on God. Through doing this, I wanted to see what kind of blessings God can do with this simple act. The only other rule I had established is that it did not matter if I knew the person or not.
I had no idea of what I was going to do exactly. I began praying to God to bring an opportunity forward to me and today at lunch, He did.
I went to the Mandarin, a restaurant here in Ames, during my lunch break. I took along my bible and Fuel booklet as I was going to use this time by myself as a time spend with God. I could read my bible and reflect on it while I ate my lunch. Plus I love Chinese food so it was a win win for me. After my week-long lunch fast last week, I was going to reward myself with a good lunch today.
After ordering my meal, I looked over to a table very close to mine and saw him. I don’t refer to him by name because I don’t know his name. I only later found out that his name is Richard. I have seen Richard around town as long as I have been in Ames. I came to Ames in the fall of 1995, when I attended college at ISU. You can’t really miss Richard. He is an older man, probably in his late 50’s or early 60’s. He has a head a grey hair and a very bushy, unkempt grey beard. He wears a very old-looking men’s dress shirt and a skirt and woman’s scarf around his neck along with men’s black work boots. He definitely looks like he could be homeless, but I don’t know that for sure. I know that he does not have a vehicle though. He walks everywhere he goes. I have seen him walking around town several times a year ever since I first came to Ames. Sometimes I see him at the library, sometimes just walking down the street. I have even seen him at the Food at First program that provides meals for the needy here in Ames. I volunteer there from time to time.
In all the times I have seen him, I have never approached him. I have never talked to him. He just seemed so strange to me, that I never took the time to try to talk to him. In fact, I would say that there are many people here in Ames that would know who you were talking about if you described him to them, but they don’t really know who he is because they haven’t taken the time either. That is very cold-hearted and hard for me to admit. What is even more cold-hearted, is I can remember times seeing him in college when I was with college buddies of mine, and mocking him and making fun of him. We would say things like, “Look at that cross dressing bum!” We never did it to his face, but we would say things like that to each other. I could easily just chalk that kind of behavior up to being a stupid, young college kid, but it still makes me sick when I think about it.
This was a person, one of God’s creations, and I had looked at him as though he were some inferior form of life that served the purpose of amusing me as I lived my life. The truth is that I was no better than him. Now, here he was, only about 10 feet from me. He was eating some soup and had his lunch that he was slowly eating. I continued to observe Richard without trying to look like I was observing him. The waitress came to his table and referred to him as Richard (that is how I learned his name). She pulled her cell phone out or her pocket and brought up a daily bible reading she had on her phone. I heard her say it was from 1 Peter, but I didn’t catch what particular chapter or verses it was. She read the passage to him and he sat listening intently. When she was finished he gave her a hug, while fighting back tears in his eyes. It was at that moment that I realized that my opportunity had arrived.
When that same waitress arrived at my table with my food, I told her very quietly, that I wanted to buy Richard’s lunch, but not to tell him I was doing that. She said that was very kind and he would really appreciate that. I realized at that point, that it would be fruitless to try to read my bible at that time, God was giving me a living example of His message right before my eyes and I didn’t want to miss any of it. When the waitress returned to Richard’s table, they talked briefly about his food and then he mentioned to her that he was on his way to the doctors and was not looking forward to it. The waitress told him that she would be praying for him and I thought to myself, I will be too.
After Richard had finished his lunch, the waitress brought a piece of apple pie and some biscuits in a “to go” box for him. I’m pretty sure that they were not going to charge him for those anyway. She left them on his table and told him that there was no ticket for him today because one of the other customers was paying for his meal. For the second time I saw tears come to his eyes. After the waitress left he table, I saw out of the corner of my eye him looking around at all the different customers in the room trying to figure out who had paid for him. I had grabbed a sports section by that point and pretended to be reading it. I didn’t want to make direct eye contact with Richard because I didn’t want him to know it was me.
After a couple of minutes, Richard put the piece of pie and biscuits into his backpack, which I suspected contained everything he owned, and got up and started walking out of the restaurant. As he walked by my table, I looked up at him and he gave me a smile as though he knew it had been me, and then walked out.
After he left, the waitress brought both his ticket and mine to my table and thanked me again for buying his lunch. She told me that he comes in for lunch every Wednesday. She said that he is allergic to chocolate so she would usually bake something for him at home and bring it in to him on Wednesdays.
Apparently, Richard must have been coming there for a while because everyone seemed to know him by name but me. When I went to pay, the lady who rang up my order, I believe she was the owner, thanked me for paying for Richard’s lunch and only charged me half price for his meal. Just an example of God’s blessings flowing. I decided to keep the receipt and wrote “Let God’s love flow through us,” on the ticket.
Me paying for Richard’s lunch wasn’t anything extraordinarily special. It was not anything that required a lot of money, but what I had seen was. When I think of the word angels, I tend to think of little child-like figures dressed in white, with wings and an aura of light surrounding them. Today I saw an angel in the form of a waitress who blended in with everyone else I saw. I saw an old man who was scared about his day. I’m sure he had spent a majority of his life being made fun of and misunderstood. Even I had made fun of him at one point. I don’t know what was wrong with Richard that he was going to the doctor that day, but what if it was really bad? What if he was on his way to find out that he was dying? It was clear that he did not have a lot of money. Me paying for his lunch seemed to mean a lot to Richard even though he did not know who did. The money was not the important thing, the lunch was not that expensive, but what the act represented was. It showed that I cared about him. He longed for someone to care about him and I am pretty sure that is why tears came to his eyes when he learned that someone had paid for his lunch.
I thought of the kindness of that waitress. How she was spreading the Word of God to a person who probably really needed to hear it. How she went out of her way to bring him something to eat. She treated him like he was special and he is because he is one of God’s sons, even if the majority of society would rather make fun of him than show kindness to him. That waitress showed me a living example of what kindness really looks like and God gave me the blessing to allow me to show some kindness of my own, even if it was over 15 years overdue.
Even though Richard benefited from the kindness of two individuals today, I think I was the one who received the biggest blessing. I learned what letting God’s love flow through us really looks like. I’m pretty sure, that I will see Richard again around town, and when I do, I intend to take the time to talk to him and get to know more about him. I know I will never look at him the same way again. He is no longer a him to me, he is Richard. Maybe I will see Richard at lunch at the Mandarin again. Shall we say same time next week?