I never understood the power of a “hello” before August 2016. This hello changed the course of my life, brought me a new family member, challenged me, grew me, frustrated me, and ultimately brought me closer to God.
This hello was to a homeless man who lived on a corner I drove by every day. On that summer day on the Gulf Coast of Texas, right down the street from Space Center Houston, I rolled down my Jeep window to a skinny, dirty, smelly man that was downright scary looking.
He approached my car cautiously, his OCD making progress painfully slow, not to mention a strange sight. I was rethinking the wisdom of stopping.
He reached the driver’s side of my car and stood silently regarding me. Then he smiled. A bright, sunny, eyes crinkling at the edges kind of a smile. I knew then that everything was all right.
Over the course of the next six months, that smelly stranger and I forged a powerful friendship. He was homeless, mentally ill and in desperate need of help. Social services had failed him, and the local shelter could not accommodate him.
Later that night, I was cozily tucked into my favorite pajamas with a cup of tea, and I noticed the leather-bound Bible on my nightstand. I had been thinking about my encounter all afternoon with the stranger on the corner. I hesitated to pick up the Bible because I knew what it was going to tell me. And frankly, I was not sure if I wanted to hear it.
(Courtesy of the author)
I did though; after a prayer and a deep breath I opened the worn pages, and my eyes fell on familiar verses, already highlighted:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," James 2:14-17.
I laughed softly to myself and took a deep breath. That hello and the few lines of Scripture took root that night in my heart. With my husband’s blessing, the very next morning I began to make phone calls to social services, the police, homeless shelters and psychiatrists.
When none proved fruitful, I spent days scouring the Internet for ideas and advice. Finally, resorting to Facebook, I threw out my frustration to my community in a bid for support and ideas.
The response was overwhelming. With the help of the local fire chief and his crew and countless caring members of the community, we helped this man. With each new hello to a new friend we forged bonds and helped someone who seemed unreachable.
That smelly, dirty man resides with my family now and is like my little brother, going on three years. There has been a lot of life lived in between that hello and today, ranging from joyful to downright heartbreaking. I would not trade it for the world.
I’m grateful for the reminder in James 2 to put action behind your words. That’s what Jesus did, he came to seek and save the lost. I invite you to think about it, to look around you, find someone you don’t know and just see what might happen. A friendly hello to a stranger might show the person that he or she is not invisible or alone in the world.