A couple weeks ago, I indulged my children by buying them breakfast at the McDonald’s drive-thru window. As we pulled away, hot biscuit sandwiches in hand, we noticed a homeless man holding a sign near the stoplight.
The sign read, “Please help. I’m hoping for a tent and sleeping bag.”
My internal editor immediately appreciated the correct punctuation on the sign and I wondered about the man’s story.
“We have a tent,” one of my kids said, looking out the window.
“We have sleeping bags, too,” said another kid. “We won’t go camping again until next summer, maybe. He could have our stuff.”
“Yes, but maybe he needs more than that,” I said. I rolled down my window and the man approached.
“Are you from around here?” I asked. “Do you need help finding a shelter downtown so you can get warm?”
He couldn’t sleep at a shelter, he told me, because he had been assaulted and now has untreated PTSD. He felt safer outside, alone, but thanked me for stopping.
“Take care,” I said, as if that kind of empty directive can help someone who has nothing. “What’s your name?”
“Jehovah,” he answered, waving at my children.
“Well, see you later, Jehovah,” I said awkwardly, thinking about how that was something I never expected to say.
I drove my kids to school while they finished their breakfasts in the cozy car. Even though they each want 12 different toys for Christmas, they thought taking Jehovah some stuff was important.
So I went home, and instead of starting the day’s enormous list of must-dos, I stared at our pile of camping equipment in the garage. The tent, I discovered, was missing quite a few parts, so it was not a good gift. We have a big family with enough boys who have been Scouts that we would never miss a sleeping bag from our collection. I put one in the car. I found a few snacks and a new toothbrush and some cash and put it all in a little bag and drove back to the McDonald’s parking lot.
“Hey, Jehovah! Come here,” I called, feeling like that had to be among the most surreal moments of my life. I call upon God all the time, and folks give their children spiritually significant names all the time, but something about the incongruity of that name in that parking lot felt profound.
The man came over and we chatted through my car window. He was maybe in his mid-20s, handsome, and had had a haircut and a shave not too long ago. Despite having some evident dental decay, he had had good orthodontic work, I noted. I realized I make inaccurate assumptions about unsheltered folks, and resolved to be more open-minded.
Jehovah was very forthright with me. He said he had been institutionalized and kicked out of his family because he has seen the Archangel Michael and moved mountains and raised the dead and speaks in tongues (several phrases of repeated Hebrew, as near as I could tell).
“I grew up in your world,” he told me, gesturing to my car and the houses nearby, “but I don’t live there anymore.” He told me he urgently needs to be serving people who are open to receiving miracles, and that tends to be the homeless population, so that is his life now. His family wants him to take medication, he said, because they are unwilling to believe him.
Jehovah was gracious about my offerings, gladly accepting the bag of supplies but turning down the sleeping bag because he thought he had collected enough money for a hotel room for the night.
He said he wished he could be helpful to me, too, and asked if he could pray with me. I said sure, because I like prayers. The experience became even more surreal as Jehovah offered the most personal prayer (and I get that I am a generic mom-lady, so it could be that this prayer fit like a horoscope) — but still, it was nice to hear a total stranger tell God that “Sally needs extra help right now because lots of people depend on her and she wants to help them but she needs to heal, too, so please strengthen her.”
Jehovah told me to expect miracles, and wished me well.
I’ve been thinking about him ever since. Life is complicated, poverty is all too real and mental health care is not accessible to many who need it. It’s 2020, and there’s a global pandemic going on that has not left anyone unaffected in some way. It’s rough.
Even so, I have noticed countless miracles since this encounter. From the clean water running out of multiple taps in my house — I live in a house! — to the amazing reality that everyone in my household can read, miracles are everywhere.
Jehovah showed me.
For all of us who live in this world full of miracles, our duty is to share them every chance we get.
Contact Sally at email@example.com.