So four months ago I met this guy Ralph. He was homeless, spent 31 years in the state prison and was released a few years ago. I met him because a lady in our church wanted to hand out coats to homeless people.
Anyway, he wrecked his moped recently, was put in the hospital, and while there found out he had liver cancer. (That’s a crappy turn-of-events) Anyway, he was released to his friend’s home to live out his final 3 weeks…he made it a week and a half. Ralph died around 2:30 am on February 28th. Anyway, I was talking with Kim (his friend with the home) and she asked if she could keep the Bible that I gave Ralph. I said, “yeah it was the best one I could find, I wrote him a personal note in there, so it’d be cool to go to a friend of his.” She then tells me that myself, and our church had blessed Ralph in so many ways the short 4 months we’ve known him, and he blessed so many in the homeless camps that she wanted to give me something that was very personal to Ralph.
She says this, “Ralph has this navy blue and red knitted hat that he took everywhere with him. I have no idea where it came from. I know you like ‘skullies’ so you can have it if you want.” I said, “ummm, do you not know the story behind that?”
Ok, so back up 3 years. I showed one video off YouTube to a bunch of students at East campus. The video was 2 college kids making sock hats for an employment opportunity for the women in Africa. They said, “we can do this, but we need to give hats away to people that need them.” For the next year or two those kids made and gave away about 400-500 hats. Inside each had was a hand-written tag that says (Matthew 5:14-16)…you’re the light of the world. The hats were called Luz which means Light in Spanish. See where am I going with this?
Ok, back to this past November. We found about 50 Luz hats stored up and some adults wanted to give them away. Guess who got one? Yep, Ralph.
Kim began to cry, and said, “It’d be cool if you found the kid that made that hat.” Let them know it made an impact on a man that spent most of his life in jail. Once he got out, he tried his best to be a blessing to all the people he came in contact with.”
The cool thing is this: when that hat was made by some kid, they had no preconceived idea of who it was going to, or what the person had done that would wear it one day. They didn’t care…all they knew was someone will be cold and needed a hat to stay warm.
The sad thing is this: when you decide you want to choose compassion, it doesn’t always end the way you think it should? Do I have certainty Ralph died and is spending eternity with God? No. Did Ralph join a small group, get baptized, tithe? Nope. Did I sit by his bed as he fought for each breath 36 hours before he died telling him that God loved him, and if he could somehow believe that Jesus died for him, then all he had to do is surrender his life, repent and believe? Yes. Did he respond? Who knows.
If you’re not ready to invest all you have into a person’s life…then maybe you shouldn’t risk CHOOSING COMPASSION.
If you want to get messy, dirty, risk almost getting puked on…twice (left that out earlier), so anyone and everyone can hear about the hope we have in Jesus, then maybe you should…Jesus wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when it came to helping people. I’m just following his lead.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.
– Phil Fincher, Local Outreach Pastor