Icheck the map again. This week I am speaking at an academic conference. At a red light I am between two worlds. On my right a street leads to tall, beautiful buildings and commerce. To the left a small community of tents is perched under an overpass: a community of homeless people under a bridge. A dwindling fire provides light for shadows cast by the tents. I neglect to observe the traffic light, and the vehicle behind me honks, anxiously reminding me the light is green. Time to move.
Throughout the day the memory of the bridge fades. As I set out on my journey home I see my unopened lunch packed early this morning. I did not need it. As I get closer to the exit I see it again: the bridge, the tents. A man stands at the corner with a cardboard sign.
I look around the car, and my eyes lock on the lunch bag. As cars move slowly under the bridge I open my window. The man runs to my vehicle. I hope it will feed him tonight. I am not ready for what happens. Tears run down his face. “God bless you!” he says.
Tears run down his face. “God bless you!” he says.
The next morning I pack a bigger lunch. That afternoon I see him on the corner, no sign, holding my lunch bag from yesterday. He recognizes my car. The light turns red. Time to move. He quickly runs toward my car, thanks me, and is surprised when I hand him a larger lunch bag. “My wife and I shared your meal,” he says. Inside the returned lunch bag I find a note: “Thank you for this food. It fed our souls. Leaving community soon. It is time to move. Thank you for your kindness.” This routine goes on for four days.
On Thursday I have no peace, conscious that today I offer a last meal to someone who needs a daily meal. I reach out to a pastor in the area who provides resources, phone numbers, and a generous offer to help this couple, no questions asked. The pastor says it’s the work of the Holy Spirit: “People may get lost in tragedy. Sometimes it is time for us to move and help them.” I place the information inside the lunch bag. Come, Holy Spirit.
At the light a woman dressed in a local factory uniform waves at me. His wife? I pull over, ignoring drivers yelling I am going the wrong way. I am moving in the right direction. From her apron pocket she takes out a small Bible, hands it to me, thanking me for help. I hand her the care package. She smiles, asks if she may pray with me, and we do, right on the side of the road.
Back in my car, I hold her Bible. On the front cover: “To my daughter. I love you—Mom.” I run after her. I want her to have her Bible. I don’t want her to forget. It’s time to move, but they are not alone. As I drive away I am the one in tears. I wave, wondering, moving forward, trusting God to see this through.
Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.