Several years ago while on a bike-trip across Idaho, I encountered a man on an overpass above an interstate. He looked worn as he stood next to a rickety, old grocery cart.
I had my destination in mind. There were many miles to go and a lot of hills in between.
I asked, “How are you?”
He shrugged his shoulders, turned his hands, and without a word indicated, “Not so good.”
I kept pedaling thinking, There’s nothing I can do for him, plus I had someplace to reach before the sun set.
It wasn’t only my feet that were pedaling as I cycled away. My heart and mind raced as well. God’s Spirit convicted me, reminding me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest probably wondered, “What can I do?” The Levite probably had someplace to be as well.
Then I remembered Matthew 25:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’ “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’” (Matthew 25:42-43, 45 HCSB)
I knew in that moment, the man with the rusty grocery cart was Jesus, and I pedaled on by.
I prayed, “Lord, teach me and help me to never pass someone by again.“
I traveled three hundred miles across barren desert, dotted with small-town stops on that seven-day trip. I began the trip thinking, I love time alone. However, once I got it, I desperately wanted to connect with somebody. Anybody! The highlight of my day was finding someone who would talk to me.
I ended the trip earlier than expected and went back to Boise. One hot, 100 degree day I walked to the grocery store. Outside the store a man covered in tattoos with a hiking pack on his back dug through the dumpster.
I walked by.
The automatic doors of the store pulled open. A wall of cool air and a thought hit me simultaneously.
That was Jesus. You know what it’s like to feel alone. There’s something you can do.
I turned around and saw the man sitting on a bench, arranging his pack.
I approached and asked, “How are you?”
He replied, “Ok. Do you have any spare change?”
“No,” I answered, “but can I get you something in the store?”
He asked for water, so I obliged.
About ten minutes later, I returned with the water bottle and handed it to the man.
I thought, Andrew, there’s more you can do.
I sat down. I didn’t rush away. We started talking. His name was Bryce. He told me he had followed “Mr. Brown” (heroine) from Chicago, to Portland and now to Boise. He was currently clean, trying to get his daughter back who lived with her grandmother in town. We talked for about 20 minutes. I asked Bryce if I could pray for him.
He said, “Yes, please.”
With my hand on his shoulder, we bowed our heads together as I prayed.