As summer approaches, we begin to see more homeless people on the streets, some looking for a handout, others just trying to survive. It’s easy to look past these individuals as though they didn’t exist, but they do. They are someone’s brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, grandchild, cousin, or friend. They were born into this world of opportunity, but something happened on the road to the American dream.
I was inspired to write this blog after reading a story online from radio consultant Doug Erickson. Doug’s story touched me to such a degree, that I felt it necessary, with his permission, to share his story with you through this blog. I will follow Doug’s story with a few links to songs and videos to accentuate the premise of the topic of homelessness and unexpected angels.
Not Him, Not Now
Bargaining with God
“You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.”
It was after normal office hours but the doctor had met us anyway.
After only a couple of minutes examining him, he told us to head straight to Children’s Hospital, that he would meet us there.
I still remember it, the fear. I can feel it even now.
Fear so huge it made conversation impossible, and so we sat silent, Shannon and I, holding hands, as we drove to the hospital.
Each of us quietly praying, bargaining with God.
Take me, not him.
He’s not even two. He’s done nothing wrong. He’s got an entire life ahead of him.
Please, please, God, not him. Not now.
And then we were there, at the ER. And I was helping her take him out of his car seat to walk inside, not wanting the certainty of the diagnosis, the pokes, the pain, the reality of this life.
I stepped back. I had to park the car. And that’s when he approached.
I hadn’t seen him before. I’m not certain he was there, honestly, but our eyes met.
I saw his pain, and he saw mine.
I muttered, “I don’t have anything to share right now. My little boy is really sick. I’m sorry.” I wanted to brush him off, move him back. I didn’t want to think about him.
And he said, “God bless you.” I think. I think that’s what he said. It was hard to hear him.
He offered his hand, which I didn’t take. He was close enough to smell. He was dirty, unwashed.
I was frantic, anxious, impatient, unwilling to look, to understand what was happening.
And he said, again, “God bless you. He’ll be okay. Your little boy. You’ll all be okay.”
And he walked off into the darkness away from me.
I’ve searched the face of every homeless man I’ve seen every day since, in every city I visit, hoping to see his, trying to understand what he was, who he was.
And Hebrews 13:2 seeps often into my thoughts, something about entertaining angels unawares.
30 years later, I’m still so ashamed of myself.
He is the reason I always have a dollar or two for anyone who asks, those nameless guys at stop lights.
There’s an image in a Bonnie Raitt song that I love: “If you listen you can hear the angel’s wings, up above our heads so near they are hovering…”
I think compassion and kindness surround us, dressed in unexpected ways, offered from what we consider an unlikely source.
And so we miss it. We let it fly by while we gaze at our iPhones.
Yet the need surrounds us too. We avoid it. We don’t want to see it, as if by denial it will cease.
It’s not just a need for money. It’s a need for humanity, for one simple act of caring, even if only briefly, for another.
The simplest acknowledgment that reveals our connection to the divine.
As the headline screams, U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High, we focus our attention on our Facebook page, turn off our big-screen HD plasma TV, close and lock our doors, worry about our investments, and pop an Ambien to help us sleep.
I believe the life you live outside your studio, outside your station, fuels the life you live inside it.
What I’ve shared today is meant to remind you whence you come.
It’s meant to confront a truth: that if you need an angel today, they are closer than you may think.
And another: that you may be the angel someone needs today
Much is not within your power, but this is.
And that’s a miracle.
Doug Erickson is the President of Erickson Media Consultants
Last June (2015), we lost a soul legend. Bobby Womack, who had the nickname “The Preacher” died at 70. He had a career that spanned seven decades. Although he only had four songs hit the Top 40, one tune touched on the issue of homelessness with such vision in the lyrics, that you can close your eyes and see “Harry Hippie“.
Harry Hippie stayed on the charts for six weeks in 1973 and only peaked at number 31, but it sold enough records to be classified as a “Gold” single, selling 500,000 copies.
Another song I want to highlight is an album cut from Steppenwolf that never reached the Top 40, called “Snowblind Friend“, a song written by folk music singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton.
With today’s heroin epidemic, take a few minutes to the listen to the lyrics of Snowblind Friend and think about the consequences of addiction that touches every cultural, economic and demographic level of society today.
Here’s a link to a powerful video by the “Make Them Visible Foundation” that reflects on how the homeless today are invisible, as we go about our day-to-day activities in life, too busy to see them.
And finally, one of my favorite videos on the Internet that shows the value of a simple “hug”! Here’s a link to the “Free Hugs Campaign“.
Smile more, enjoy the life God has given you, reach out your hand and try to make a new friend today.
Please check out my Internet Radio Station, “Pet Guardians Radio“, and tell your friends to listen too!