Valentine's Day - with Gerald
This past Friday was the best Valentine's Day Dina and I have ever celebrated.
On Friday morning we were on our way home from the gym when we saw this man, Gerald, camped out on the sidewalk.This past Sunday, Sophia had prepared a bag of goodies, sort of a care package, to give to a needy person.
It contained a bottle of water, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mini shampoo and soap, a granola bar and some candies. She included a valentines card in which she wrote "Dios te ama" (God loves you). Though Sophia wasn't with us, when we saw Gerald, we knew he was the one we should give it to.
We talked with him for a while to encourage him. We attempted to buy him some lunch at the little restaurant he was leaning up against, but they offered it for free.
Protruding from his Crocs his feet looked like tree stumps bursting through his torn socks. I took off his Crocs and respectfully slipped my socks onto his feet. Yes, I had worn them to the gym. Neither of us cared.
Gerald is a very intelligent 64 year old man who worked for over 30 years traveling the world as a merchant marine. Somehow the alcohol beat him and he had pretty much given up. Now lives on the streets of San Jose.
We told him we had a few more things for him and he said he'd be in the park "guarding cars" (a common job that street people do to make a few dollars a day). We had some errands to run, picked up the girls from school and things we were going to give him, and returned to find him on the way to the park as he told us we would.
Sophia introduced herself to him and gave him her red Valentine's balloon that a classmate had just given her, carefully ting it to his cane. The zipper of his jacket was mangled up with the zipper from his vest, but we managed to separate them.
He had no shirt so we gave him two, made him a rope belt on the spot, and some other useful items to make his life a little easier.
He quoted Psalm 91 for me, start to finish, then he told me the most important thing he has learned about the Bible is to obey God. Then he told me he was going to look for his liquor to warm his bones - that it's what keeps him warm on the streets. I told him that it's what keeps him on the streets.
We talked about it a little more. I told him he's created in God's image and he agreed. I said that God was probably not too happy to see him in such a sad state.
I told him next time I see him I want him to have scrubbed his hands and wash his face so he can feel better about himself. I gave him a small pair of scissors he had asked for in order to trim his beard so he would look nice.
We encouraged him not to give up on himself, to try to "warm his bones" with coffee instead, and to obey the things he knows the Lord wants him to do and that God would help him to do them.
Then I prayed with him and gave him a hug because I figured it had been a long time since someone had hugged old Gerald. He smelled like pee. Neither of us cared.
We know that we can't "fix" people, nor all of the problems that create these situations in people's lives.
And we know that Gerald and others like him are trapped in a vicious cycle of vices that won't be broken by a pretty red balloon.
Gerald's life makes us reflect on the fact that there are so many broken people all around us who "know" about God, but have not yet personally encountered His personal Love.
Some broken people drive a Mercedes-Benz.
Some of them "guard" them.
We just offer what we have.
The reflection of God's love.
Go find your Gerald to love.
"Inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these my brothers, you've done it unto me..." Jesus - Mat 25:40
Thanks for helping make it possible for us to reach Gerald!
-John & Dina