Some afternoons, it just takes coffee to make it through.
Last Tuesday was that kind of afternoon.
That day, I decided to walk a different route from my office to the neighboring McDonalds, walking through our parking garage and exiting on the street a little closer to the restaurant than the door I usually use.
Just as I exited the garage, a homeless man was walking by on the same side of the street. He stopped me, said he needed bus fare to get to work, and asked if I had any money. I looked him in the eye, gave him the dollar or so of change in my pocket, wished him a good day, and continued walking to McDonalds. He didn’t seem very pleased with the small amount, but said “thank you” anyway, and turned toward the bus stop just down the street.
This wasn’t a momentous encounter, or even a significant one. I didn’t give him a lot of money. We didn’t have a deep spiritual conversation. In fact, the whole thing was over in 15 seconds. I even forgot to ask him for his first name, a tactic my daughter uses with great success to let the person she’s talking to know they are valued.
No, I woudn’t even bring up this on-the-street meeting, if it weren’t for the fact that God has placed the Old Testament story of Ruth in front of me several times this week. What brought Ruth, a poor widow and the daughter-in-law of another poor widow, to that particular field in Bethlehem owned by Boaz? He was a wealthy relative of Ruth’s late father-in-law, and under Hebrew law, was one of the only men alive who could redeem Ruth.
It was all so ordinary. Ruth needed food for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, and was gleaning grain at harvest time in the part of Boaz’s field reserved for the poor. And Boaz, as wealthy landowners will do from time to time, just “happened” to show up at the same time to see how his crops turned out that year.
Boaz saw Naomi working in the field, and the rest, as they say, is history. Actually, it’s “His story,” as Boaz and Ruth became grandparents in the human ancestral line of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, I’m convinced that the meeting on Kansas Avenue in Topeka last Tuesday was a divine appointment. But what was God up to when I crossed paths with the homeless gentleman that afternoon?
I have no idea. But God knows.
I can only hope he was blessed by our brief encounter, by the small amount of money I gave to him, and by the respect I showed to him when we spoke. In retrospect, I also hope that our meeting will help me not to overlook any future “chance” meetings. And to be prayerfully ready for whatever God wants to come out of that meeting.
God has done some pretty big things with seemingly random encounters. And I don’t want to miss what He’s doing.