“We’ve been living out of this car for a while now. We just need some help.”

I met Tim and his mother Mary briefly in the parking lot of Home Depot while running a quick errand to swap out a propane tank, a spare just in case it was needed. The man ahead of me probably heard the same quote as above as he quickly walked away from their car. Tim and Mary decided to cruise by Home Depot to ask for help. At least that’s what I saw this hot afternoon in September when the temperatures are still in the 90s.

I was in a hurry, as usual. Our daughter and husband were on the way for dinner, and my job was to grill the chicken. My spare tank was empty, so I decided to dash to Home Depot since they have an automated tank-swap system. Being approached by a couple in a car was not on my list. This was a pulse check moment. I stopped.

Just last week in Vancouver, my wife and I were visiting her mother when someone outside McDonald’s approached us, “Can you buy me breakfast?” This was easy. We were headed inside for coffee and a bite to eat when we heard the simple request. I invited him inside, and he ordered breakfast, a large coffee, and a blueberry muffin. I’m guessing the latter was a snack for later on. As a paying customer, he was allowed to use their bathroom. We were happy to help and provide a meal. He took it and left. In my haste, I failed to ask him for his name. As Zoë and I comfortably ate our breakfast and enjoyed our coffee, I replayed the event and felt I missed an opportunity to honor our guest by merely asking for his name. Otherwise, he’s just another invisible person.

Tim was in the driver’s seat with the window rolled down. When I heard his question, I stopped and asked for his name. He is loved by the Father just as much as I am. His name matters. He matters. I shook his hand and talked to him briefly. As I handed him a copy of the Resource Guide, I mentioned a few places he could visit to get a meal and perhaps some other help. When I mentioned Labor of the Field, he immediately said he knew Vernon Bagwell, the pastor. It’s been a while since I’ve talked with Vernon, but he was very clear to let us know that if people were hungry, he would see to it that they were fed. Tim knew the name and the place. I hope it was useful for him.

I’m not sure if the outcome was as successful as I imagine, but I genuinely hope Tim and Mary were able to connect with people that could help. Should I have done more? Was handing him a Resource Guide sufficient?

There are lots of questions I wonder about when I encounter people in need. One thing I’m trying to learn is to slow down and ask for a name. “Hey Tim, I’m Dave. I’m sorry you’re in this position. I don’t know if this is helpful, but we know about several places that offer a free meal.”

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I wonder if Tim and Mary will be at Tabernacle of Faith for lunch today. At the very least, I hope and pray they are ok. I’m still a work in progress, trying to improve. Lord, help me to see people the way you see them and help me to know what to do when I have the chance.