The following letter was sent to The Christophers by Jeff Daws in response to a request for stories that could be used for our “Leadership in Mercy” initiative:
My wife had a medical conference in Philadelphia in February, 2015. I tagged along with her and while she was attending the conference one day, I was walking around the area, taking in the sights, etc.. It was a bitterly cold day, one where the wind (which was blowing hard at times) would cut right through you. As I contemplated what to have for lunch, I noticed a homeless man sitting on top of a sidewalk level grate trying to catch as much heat coming through the grate as possible.
I walked across the street to order my lunch and, while standing in line trying to decide what to get, I knew I had to get something for that man as well. I kept looking out of the window to make sure he didn’t leave that corner and while doing so, a woman who was also waiting for her meal must have seen the same man. She asked if I was looking at him and I told her “yes”. She asked if I would give the man some money that she wanted to give to him and I told her I would be happy to do that. She gave me a $20 bill and I knew the man would be quite happy to receive that.
After receiving my meal as well as what I ordered for this man, I proceeded back to that corner and got down on my knees to give him the food. I asked him if he had anything to eat that day and he told me that he did…….a banana, which he said he broke in half and gave some to a friend. I then gave him the food that I ordered for him, along with a large cup of coffee and the money that the woman had given to me for him.
He proceeded to ask me what my name was and I told him “Jeff”. He then said “Jeff, I’m going to pray for you”.I was immediately taken aback by his statement then I asked what his name was and he told me it was “Gary”. I said “Gary, we’re going to be praying for each other then”. I then asked him to promise me that he would try to find a warm place for the night and he said it would be difficult but that he would try. As I was leaving, I said, “God Bless You Gary,” and he had a huge smile on his face.
As I was walking away from this man, someone came up to me and said that they had seen what I had done. I told him that it’s very easy to do and if you’re able to do it, just do it.
You’d think that would be the end of my story. [But] when I returned home, I was retelling this story to my parish priest and he put a much different spin on it for me. Because of what he said, it will help me to never forget “Gary”.
He said that in many cases, homeless people only have a very few possessions and that he gave two of them to me. He gave me his name (Gary) and his faith (by telling me that he was going to pray for me). I am eternally grateful to him for allowing me to think of that encounter in a much, much different way.
I am ever mindful of those who are not as fortunate as I am and I try to help whenever I can. I know that by the grace of God we all may be just a few short steps away from being in a much harder life situation than what we may be today so I try my best to fully appreciate who I am, what I have and what I can do for others.
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