‘Avoid, ignore’ no longer possible



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

‘Avoid, ignore’ no longer possible

July 11, 2008    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011   
tparham@flumc.org     Orlando {0880}

NOTE: A headshot of Gay is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Commentary
By David Gay**

I grew up in a nice home on the good side of town. I have never had to be hungry.

My dad was a hard worker and successful in his business. Dad had a strong work ethic and thought everyone else should, as well. He was a good man, but somehow I grew up believing that the “bum” on the street was there by his own choices. I thought that if he had my work ethic, he wouldn’t be in that situation.

It has been difficult for my hard heart to understand that many homeless are there because they are physically, mentally or emotionally unable to hold a job or that circumstances or bad choices have put them in their unfortunate situation.

Even as I began to understand this, I still chose to avoid the man with his cardboard sign. And when I could not avoid him, I would ignore him. This was not my problem.

However, about a year ago, I found myself in a place where avoid and ignore did not suffice. I was at the same intersection I passed every day — an intersection where there was always a man with a cardboard sign. But this day a man I had never seen before was there. It was raining hard and my truck window was up. He approached my window and in his broken English said: “Please sir, help me. Please sir, I am hungry.”

I motioned with my hand for him to go away. He persisted, “Please, sir. I am hungry.”

I pretended to talk on my cell phone, pointing at the phone as if he were interrupting. With tears flowing down his face, he pointed to his stomach, “Please, sir, I am hungry.”

The light turned green, and I drove away. As I cleared the intersection, a bad feeling came into my gut. I had just said, “No,” to Jesus. I had just ignored God’s call to feed the hungry.

Because I had earlier gone out to lunch with a friend, the sandwich I had prepared that morning was uneaten and in the cooler beside me. It would have been so easy to give it to the man, instead of throwing it away when I got home. As I realized this, I started to cry. Then I began to pray. I realized that I cannot avoid and ignore if I want to be a follower of Jesus.

Thankfully, God grabbed my heart that day and began to massage it to make it a little softer. Since that day, I carry an extra lunch in my truck at all times, ready to give it away at a moment’s notice.

‘Street Eats’

From his experience, Gay helped start an outreach ministry to the homeless at his church, First United Methodist Church of Winter Park.

Every Sunday the church makes Ziplock bags filled with an assortment of nonperishable, easy-to-eat food items — a small bottled drink, granola bar, cheese and crackers, small container of apple sauce — available to its members. The bags are called Street Eats.

Members are encouraged to take the bags and keep them in their cars during the week to share with anyone they may meet who needs help.

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Gay is a member of First United Methodist Church, Winter Park, Fla.




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