When I go get groceries, or take my daughter to school, I see the same man walking down the sidewalk. His skin is bronze and baked by the sun. He's bald on top with a halo of snow white hair. He has a far-away look in his eyes and he talks out loud to himself. He has no belt, so he holds up his grimy khakis. Often times he is not wearing a shirt. When I've looked at him in my rear view mirror, I see he is wearing no underwear. And, I am disgusted.
Our family named him Walkin' Dog.
When I went to lunch on Monday with my husband, we sat in a booth surrounded by ceiling-to-floor windows. Bright orange flowers caught my attention. I saw a lump on the ground move. The lump turned over. It was Walkin' Dog. He was taking a nap under the flowering bushes, shaded from the sun.
I see him so often that I have formed many opinions. I'm certain he sleeps in the storm drain in front of the Home Depot. (I saw him come out of there once with another homeless man.) He walks all day up and down a three mile stretch in our neighborhood, so he must be trying to find water and food. I'm certain he eats out of trash cans. He always looks down at the ground so he must be ashamed. He's been around so long, I've decided he's an alcoholic, so I won't help him with money.
Last year my husband gave him a new pair of pants. We saw him days later in his same ole dirty ones, carrying the new ones. I decided he was stupid.
In the restaurant, as I turned back to my husband I said, "Look, there's Walkin' Dog. I'm surprised they don't run him off."
My husband said, "I found out this week that he owns a nice house in our neighborhood. His wife passed away three years ago and he lost his mind."
It was my turn to feel ashamed. I judged him critically. I made assumptions I believed to be true. I had not helped him in any way.
After lunch when I was alone in my car, I prayed, "God, I have harmed Walkin' Dog and You. What I did was wrong. Will you forgive me?" I believe that He did. I continued to pray, "God, please bless Walkin' Dog and help me set this right."
Now, every time I think of it when I leave the house, I take a bottle of cold water. Maybe I'll get to see him. Maybe I'll be able to give him the water. Maybe God will urge someone to tell me his name or where he lives. Maybe I could cook dinner and take it to him. Either way, it will remind me to pray for him.