We sat sipping Traverse Bay Cherry Reisling in my living room, Michael the non-theist, and I the Christ follower, sorting through our thoughts of spirituality and loving your neighbor. Both of us when we run across people with hands open usually give what we can, though Michael told a story about being approached at a stoplight by a woman with a sob story asking for help and how the tears immediately shut off when she found out he only had a dollar in his wallet. You just never know, and so what then? A hardened heart seems a steeper price to pay than being deceived now and again.
But there was this one man who seemed different than others. Michael ran across him downtown a short while ago when Michael himself was homeless and living in his truck. The man was hungry and Michael, with only $20 to his name, gave the guy five of that. There was just something honest and real about him. And when the man found out that Michael too was without a home he invited him to come with him to McDonald's and eat together. It reminded me of the woman I picked up on the street recently, who was trying to carry grocery bags, including one that had ripped most of the way down. When I dropped her off she said, "Now you know where I live so you'll have to stop in for coffee". The smallest drop of kindness in the world creates instant kinship.
With Michael and the other man there was the added bond of mutual homelessness. They kept talking, sharing their stories, and the other guy said that he was trying to scrape up $15 to settle a debt that must be paid before his parole officer could get him a job. He was caught in a crazy Catch-22, needing money to be eligible for work, and needing work to provide the money for his debt. Really, I'm telling the truth, the guy said. I'll call my parole officer and he'll tell you. Michael, who even when flush doesn't hand out more than change or a buck to those who ask for money on the street, decided to give the man his last $20. He brushed off the man's request for contact information to pay him back, and told him he just needed to get things square, get a job and than help somebody else out. Pay it forward.
I sat raptly while Michael told me his story, forgetful of the wine glass in my hand. "I knew the guy was telling the truth," Michael said. "I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I could feel this energy, this healing energy, all around us."
"That energy," I replied. "That's what I call God." And in that moment a bridge buckled and drew us both to the center, into a middle of understanding each other.