It was around 4 PM that I first started thinking about going out for dinner. Ava and Nate were gone to the grandparents. Cody would not be home until later in the evening. I felt a little embarrassed about going out to eat with only Lucas as company. I have never enjoyed eating alone. But, there wasn't really any food in the house. Plus, I really wanted to eat at a restaurant. I did call one friend, but she wasn't home. I thought about asking my elderly neighbor to come with me, but for some reason I did not. Finally I figured I would just go eat alone...no biggie. I thought also for a long time about where to go. Black-eyed Pea came to mind immediately. I tried and tried to think of somewhere else, but I couldn't. It was stuck in my mind. So I fed Lucas his baby food, then packed him into the car. As we were walking into the building, I saw a small elderly black man on crutches standing against the wall in the shade. We both said "hi" and made a few remarks about the heat. After I had passed, I stopped and turned back. Somehow, I knew that the man was homeless. I am not sure how I knew it, and I don't know why I turned back to him. There was a series of thoughts in my mind that happened so quickly that I can't even remember them. I asked him if he was waiting for someone. He told me he needed help. He needed bus money. I asked him if he was hungry, and he replied that he was. I asked him to come inside and eat with me. He said no at first, that he only needed bus money, but after I asked again he agreed. As we sat down to eat I started by asking him about the bus money he needed. He told me the fare was $2.50. I assured him that I would provide it after the meal. So there we sat, on opposite sides of the booth, with Lucas in his car seat on an overturned high chair between us. A minute went by before I realized I had never introduced myself. We exchanged names, and I introduced Lucas. I sure was thankful for Lucas because, as most everyone knows, babies make excellent conversation starters. They are also good for distraction when conversation wanes. However, the conversation stayed fairly lively as the man and I shared a little bit about who we were and what we did during the days. It was difficult for me to understand him sometimes because his voice was gravely. I think he said he lived at a campground in Irving. He needed the bus fare to get back to the campground. I asked how he had come to be in this part of town, but I did not understand his answer. A waitress came by and acted like she knew him. My guess is he must hang around this restaurant some. I don't know if he really needed to go somewhere on the bus, but it didn't make any difference to me. He said he was often very hungry, cold in the winter, and hot in the summer. Several times he quoted scripture to me. He asked me if I knew the two things God said was most important. I answered, "Love God, and love your neighbor." He seemed to like that I knew the answer. He was very polite, almost to a point of making me feel uncomfortably superior, if that makes any sense. He sure liked Lucas. He complimented him often and enjoyed watching him babble, grab his feet, and munch on cheerios. He ate only half of his meal, carefully wrapping the rest in paper and placing it in his backpack. I was still finishing my food when he said he had better be going. I gave him some cash and wished him well. He thanked me heartily for dinner.
I've been reflecting on this event since then. It is the first time I have ever invited a stranger standing by a restaurant to be my dinner guest. It felt like the absolute right thing to do. I knew that I couldn't solve all of this man's many problems. But, I knew that I could solve the most current two on his list: a meal and a bus ticket. Some might think that I titled this post "God provides" because the man had some needs met. That may be true, but I was thinking of myself when I wrote the title. After all, I was the one in need of company for dinner.