Sometimes a story has to stew a while before it's ready to be told. I guess that's true of this story - maybe because it's not so much a story as it is things that happened and feelings.
Not long ago, I traveled to a familiar city with two social workers. The first night we went out to dinner, and on the way we saw a pile of blankets heaped in a doorway, and a dog. As we passed, the blankets moved; the man sleeping there had stirred in his sleep. I can't forget how my companions jumped, and quickly walked to the other side of the sidewalk. At the restaurant, after they blessed their food, they laughed at how startled they had been, and at him, and what he was doing with a dog, sleeping on the street. They told me I should protect them and watch their pocketbooks on the way back. I can't forget how uncomfortable I was, as I explained to them that we were in a city known for its homeless population and for the resources it provides for them. I explained that a lot of the city's homeless have animals for protection and companionship. I tried to explain that no one was going to steal their pocketbooks. The next night, it happened again - this time, it was young kids sitting under an overhang on the sidewalk, again with a dog. They asked for a cigarette, and my companions gripped their purses tightly, averted their eyes, hurried past. And again the next day - a scruffy man crossing the street in a torn coat, asking for our spare change.
Then it was our last day. I was tired from long days of meetings, tired from the time difference, tired from defense and explanation. We were in the middle of downtown. I was thinking about how my shoes were pinching my heel, and about what I needed to pack. I was thinking about how much more I would have enjoyed the trip with people who understood. And that was when I saw them. A man and a woman - you could tell they were homeless by their clothing, by their matted hair, and the dirty bags they were carrying. They were coming toward me, the two of them holding hands and skipping! Their smiles were so joyful, and they were skipping -- skipping and singing! It was "You Are My Sunshine," and it was raining.
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I almost missed it. That couple, that song - that homeless man and woman - they were God's provision for me when the weight of compassion was too heavy.