In 1992 I had a chance meeting with a street-kid that challenged me to the core.  One of the moments where everything you think you are and believe is laid out before you.  It changed me forever.

I had just taken the bus in to the the city centre (Adelaide, South Australia) to meet with some friends to see a couple shows as part of the Festival Fringe arts week.  Just after I met up with one friend, I stopped to get some cash out of an ATM.  Out of the shadows (it seemed) appeared a street-kid.  My first reaction was that he was some rich kid dressed up trying to scam some money, but I was very wrong.  His ragged clothes were genuinely dirty and torn – and he reeked of body odour.

He asked me for some money, but  I refused, asking him whether he’d like something to eat instead .  He accepted.  We walked down to the end of the mall to Hungry Jacks (Burger King) which was on the corner of a busy intersection.  We got a few stares as we walked in, but I didn’t care – it felt good to be able to give him something to eat.  The friend who I met up with was rather quiet through it all!

While we were eating, I asked him a few questions, but can’t remember getting much of a conversation out of him.  I had noticed he was limping a bit, so I looked down at his feet – just to see that he had no shoes on.  The bible verse Luke 3:11 raced through my mind –  ” . . . anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  It was like God was saying “so, what are you going to do?”  

I asked him about his limp and he told me that he had cut his foot.  I asked him if I could have a look.  In the middle of the restaurant I took his dirty foot onto my lap and saw a decent size cut, full of dirt and ripe for infection.  I asked whether he got the cut looked at.  What he shared next  opened my eyes to a world I was so distant from.  He told me he had gone into one of the local missions and they had patched it up, then left him to head out again with nothing but a bandage on his foot.  “With no shoes?” I asked.  He nodded.  

homeless-feetMy heart was racing, people in the restaurant were staring, my friend was ignoring us and I felt so utterly unprepared for the encounter.  I knew that I had more than ‘two shirts’ (figuratively speaking) – and this was one of those moments as a Christian we often talk about, but somehow seem to often miss.  I asked him what size shoe he wore.  He replied “I don’t know”.  I leant down and removed my black-leather dress shoe, then held it against his foot to see if the sizes matched.  They did.  Many people in the restaurant had come and gone, but I was still pretty much oblivious to everything around me.  As I took off my other shoe, I realised that keeping my socks on was not going achieve anything, so I took them off and gave them to him as well.  After he put them on and finished his meal, we walked back up the mall, as it was nearly time to meet up with our other friends and see the show. 

I didn’t know what to do next.  I didn’t want to just leave him, but there was little else I could offer.  I didn’t want to be like the mission that just slapped a band-aid on his cut and sent him on his way, but that is what I felt I was doing.  I told him I was a Christian and asked if I could pray for him – he accepted!  I remember struggling to say anything profound, but then realised it didn’t matter.  The least I could do was give him my shoes and socks.  The best I could do was point him to Jesus.  Even then, I still felt inadequate.

As we went to the show, my friend and I harldy spoke about it.  I was madly praying that no-one would ask me why I wasn’t wearing shoes, as it would probably just sound like I had only given them away so I could boast about it.  No-one did.  We watched 2x one-hour long shows with about 15 other friends – and no-one said a thing.  

When I finally got home that night, I sat at my piano and played.  I was so full of emotions that God poured them out in a song, through the eyes of the street kid I had just met – ‘What’s the use of crying?

After I had completed it  (in about an hour!), I played the complete song through and  bawled my eyes out.  I was wishing I could have done more; I was devastated at my nativity about the homeless; I wondered how many times I’ve missed these kinds of opportunities.   To sit there, knowing that the next day I would  go and buy a brand new pair of leather shoes, opened my eyes to he imbalance of the world.

hope-digital_a-600-px-100The lyrics in the chorus paint a bleak picture.  I realised how lucky and blessed my life was, but now now had seen a new level of despondency in his eyes.  In my worst days, I still had more hope for the future than this kid knew.

All I could pray for was that in this day, through my small deed – he saw some hope in God.