Freedom with William

Going into the convenience store in a somewhat rough neighborhood this afternoon, I met William.  The introduction started with him asking me if I had any spare change with an expression that was likely contrived but born out of desperation of some sort, just the same.  I told him that I didn’t just yet, but would on my way out.  I had a $20 bill and am willing to help the man out but nothing suggested $20 worth of help at this point.

Coming back out, I went over to William and offered him several one dollar bills asking him if he’s having tough times.  He said he’s been looking for work but just can’t find any and that he lives just a block away with his sister while pointing in the direction of his new home as he had just moved there recently.  We talked for a while and parted ways, with William telling me while holding his hand over his heart that our time together had “made his day.”

The cynics say, “he’ll buy booze” or “he’s lazy and needs to get a job” or some related type of possible truth.  All I know is William’s testimony and the fact that I am glad that I met William.  It’s not about the money; the money was minimal and you better believe that wouldn’t have “made” his day.  It’s that we got to know each other’s names and each of us got a glimpse, even if it was still relatively vague and distant, into somebody else’s world.  It’s a break from the busyness and self-absorption to relate to another person at the point where they find themselves.  It’s giving instead of wanting with hopeful laughter in the face of the desperation.  It’s respect between two people with nothing and everything in common.

I left William better than I found him and he impacted me enough that I am writing about him now.  Life happened because it will if we let it.  The alternatives of brushing him off, never asking his name, handing him a dollar and moving on, judging, condemning or ridiculing would have stolen life from me; not from William.  William likely has a lifetime of disregard; another cold or apathetic response to his plea wouldn’t have surprised him or hurt him any more than he has already been hurt.  I would have been the one that suffered, though, giving fear a stronghold through my inaction.  Fear of people different from me and practice in that insecurity to develop a  narcissistic selfishness that would only expand to cover a broader cross-section of people less desperate than William until life is only about me in my own little bubble of fear.

I’ve walked past other William’s before, and I’ve stopped for some, too.  Today, I am glad that I stopped and received the Life of the interaction with William, nurturing freedom while refusing to be captive to the fear.  That was a win for me; you win some, you lose some, so we should always cherish the wins.

One thought on “Freedom with William

  1. As one that has spent at least a little time in the mission field, I can relate. At times, my focus lies in what I “intend” to do and not what lies close at hand, right there in the moment. My goodness, how many times have I acted without thinking…because of this thing we call “common sense”. How easy it is to walk the streets of Africa and determine on the spot what is needed, what is right before your eyes. Common sense says to feed the poor, educate the uneducated, medicate the sick. Pretty simple stuff except for the fact that common sense just took away the element of prayer. Common sense made us forget that God doesn’t work in the common sense. Therefore, we begin dictating to God what we intend to do, and then tie it up in a pretty bow and label it as “our calling”. I’ve been there before, believe me. I’ve learned again what I’ve always known, which is that our only calling is to God Himself, and prayer, not common sense, is the key to seeing God’s will at work.

    Thank you Scott, for showing us that in your story about William. Common sense would have made you proud to not give him money, saving him from himself and another bottle of booze. Instead, you gave prayer, inviting God an opportunity to intercede on Williams behalf. A pretty good alternative, I would say.

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