"I really need to leave, but I am having a hard time pulling myself away. I ask if I can hug him. He says yes, and I pull him into an embrace. His sweat mixed with the lingering smell of alcohol on an unwashed body, is like a fragrance to me and I think, 'this is what love smells like.' I remind him of his worth; and of his value, and that he is loved. And then I tell him,
"I love you, K."
And, I think he believes me."
And then, even though I long to stay with K, I walk away. It is difficult for me to leave him there but, I know I have done all I can for him at this time. After I pick up my daughter and finish running my errands, I return home, and send him a brief text.
Me: Hey K! This is Melinda!
K: Roger that
Me: So, how would you feel about sending me that pic of us?
Me: This is a great pic! Now you can remember the day when you asked to be loved, and God sent me.
K: It's either fate or coincidence. Personally, I don't much believe in coincidence
Me: Nor do I
And then I wait. Though it has been a while since I have heard from K, he is never far from my thoughts. Everything within me longs to contact him; to reach out to him, but, I don't want to over step my boundaries. I am fearful of making him feel pressured, and pushing him away. I believe that it is K's decision as to whether or not he will choose to move out of this particular chapter he is in. But I admit, I feel very helpless. I pray for him though; and my heart continues to love him, as I hope, and wait for K.
Two days later, I am overjoyed to receive a text from K. He has been thinking, and has decided that he would like to accept my offer of help. He wonders if we could meet the following day. I speak to my husband about meeting with him, and of course he agrees. I make a few phone calls and gather some information from the manager of our local men's transitional housing program. I briefly explain K's situation and they are very optimistic about him being a candidate for their program, but they strongly encourage that K himself take the responsibility of initiating the contact. While the mother in me wants to just take care of this myself, I understand where they are coming from, and I agree.
The following day, my husband and I head to the 7-11 where K has asked us to meet him. We pull up around the side of the convenience store, and immediately I see a figure wrapped in a sleeping bag curled up on a dirty pallet next to the dumpster.
Seeing him like this is simply overwhelming to me, and once again, my heart breaks for him. It doesn't matter that he is here because of choices he himself, has made. It makes no difference to me that it is his addiction to drugs, that has left him desolate and alone in his circumstance. When I look at him, I don't see a meth addict. I look at him, and see a boy. I see someone's son. Someone's brother, perhaps, or a nephew, or uncle, or grandson. I look at this boy and I know someone's heart is breaking; aching for him; wondering where he is, and waiting for him to come home.
And my heart wonders, "How did you get here?"
My husband and I approach him and I call his name. He wakes from a restless sleep, and tries to gather himself. I desperately want to weep for him, but I keep my tears in check. He does not need to see me cry over him. What he needs is a strong shoulder, and I am so thankful my husband is here beside me. I have brought a duffel bag filled with clean clothing, new socks and underwear and toiletries, and food that I have packed for him. He expresses his genuine thanks, and opens the bag to look inside. I can see the gratitude wash over him as he quickly opens a sandwich and takes a bite while he continues to search through the bag. What I am not prepared for though, is his reaction to the new tube of toothpaste he finds.
"Toothpaste!" he exclaims as he holds it gratefully in the air.
I almost lose my resolve to keep my tears in check, and I know I will never forget this tiny, priceless moment.
My husband and I talk to him for bit about the transitional housing opportunity, and he agrees that he would like to pursue this option. He borrows my phone and calls the manager. They schedule a meeting for tomorrow after he is done work, and while he is glad to have a meeting scheduled, I can see that he is anxious about spending another night on the streets. But my husband has a plan. He respectfully asks K if he would be willing to accept a hotel room from us for the night, and I am relieved, no, I am elated, when he agrees. As we drive together to the hotel where K will stay for the night, I silently breathe a prayer of thanks to my God. Tonight, K will sleep in a bed. He will have use of a shower, he will eat a complimentary hot breakfast before he heads off to work in the morning, he has food I have packed for his lunch tomorrow, and after work, he will meet with the transitional housing manager to secure a place to stay while he gets back on his feet. And once again, I am so very grateful that God has chosen me and my husband, to be His hands and feet extended.
We arrive at the hotel and my husband pays for K's room. I can see he is anxious to get himself settled and very likely, showered. Though, in my heart I want to stay with him, to love on him, I know he needs his space. Before we leave though, he shakes my husband's hand and thanks him for his kindness. I quickly pull K into another embrace, and once more, I am overcome with love for this boy. And it is beautiful, and it is painful, all at the same time.
This love I have for K is beautiful, but it is also difficult. It is just so painful to watch someone you love choose to walk a path that can only bring sorrow and devastation. And I wonder if perhaps this is what it is like for God to love us. How His heart must break for us at times. How He must grieve for us, and long for us, and hope for us, to choose life, instead of death. And as I ponder this, I am coming to an understanding that, if I choose to ask Jesus for a heart like His, then I must be prepared for it to break like His.
Still though, I will always ask. Because loving like Jesus is worth the heart breaking.
Will you ask as well?
"I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.
Because, whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored,
that was me—you did it to me."
A week goes by, and I send K a text letting him know that I am thinking of him and praying for him. I don't hear back from him, and a week later, I send him another text. One more week goes by without a response from him and so I text him again.
"Hi K. You are often in my thoughts and prayers.
I hope you are healthy and doing well.
I want you to know that I love you.
You were brought into my life for a reason.
You are planted in my heart and there you will remain."