Lisa Leonard Designs

shine project {helping the homeless}

June 28th | adventures, thoughts

Last week, David and I were walking downtown browsing  some of our favorite {or should I say ‘my’ favorite} shops. We had plans to meet up with Steve and Matthias for lunch and we had a little time to kill. I thought about grabbing a Starbucks or browsing through the bookstore, but then I saw a young man about 20 years old holding a sign saying, “Hungry, please help.”

“Perfect!” I thought. I know just what to do with my extra 15 minutes! I pushed David’s stroller towards the young man and asked him, “Are you hungry? I’d be happy to grab you a chicken burrito from Chinos.”

“Actually” he replied, “I am hungry, but I’d prefer a burrito from Chiptole.
And instead of a burrito, can I get a bowl?
And instead of chicken, I’d like carne asada.
Also, one last thing, make sure there is no lettuce and no tomato.”

By the time he finished giving me his order I was smiling from ear to ear and almost laughing. I’m not saying it was right, but in my head I thought, “Well gosh, I guess sometimes, beggars can be choosers!”

“Okay” I replied, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

As I walked towards the restaurant I was beginning to regret this whole thing. I didn’t want to walk over to Chipotle. There was probably going to be a line. And anyway, who did he think he was, giving me a list of demands? But I sighed and walked on, I’ll just get the food I thought and if his heart is wrong, I’ll let God be the one to work that out.

David and I quickly returned with his lunch and a bottle of water. Since we still had a few minutes before meeting Steve and Matthias I asked him to tell me his story. His story was tragic but vague and he asked a few personal questions about David. Before we parted he told me he had worked with special needs kids in High School and actually offered to babysit if we needed help. “Yeah, um, that’s not going to happen.” I told him.

David and I walked away, leaving him with his carne asada bowl and me with a lot of things to think about. I wonder, do I have any right to be more demanding than he does? And If I’m going to serve the homeless, shouldn’t I be willing to get them food they prefer, even if it means walking down the street and waiting in line?

The interaction showed me that maybe my heart is harder than I thought it was. And if I truly want to serve, I should do it with a soft heart. I don’t need to understand all of his motives, I just need to be faithful and let God take care of the details. Sheesh, I’ve got a long way to go!

You can learn more about the shine project here. And you can read my first post about showing some kindness to Steve here. PS I’m doing them a bit out of order–hope you don’t mind! Join us in spreading a little love to others!

34 Responses

  1. Lori A says:

    Lisa, are you familiar with Tim Timmons? He has a great Christian kids’ cd (that totally rocks to this grown-up, as well!) and he has a great song on it called “Shine.” Just thought of it as I read your post. His blog is very compelling as well. :)

    I appreciate your transparency… and I know the same thoughts would have been in my head. What a great example of loving your neighbor you showed David! xo

  2. I truly appreciated this post! I appreciate your giving heart and your ear for listening to HIM! :)

  3. gale says:

    I have had something similar happen, in that I tried to watch and see where the homeless guy went with my $5….so, I wasn’t giving it with a free heart, either. Not only did I miss where he went, I also ruined my lunch with my bad mood and self-righteous attitude. I, too, have a long way to go!!!

  4. summer says:

    thanks for sharing this, with the honesty to how you felt. thanks for sharing a teachable moment. what an amazing project.

  5. Amy says:

    Thanks for this, Lisa! You are so right!!! I needed this reminder today.

  6. LOVD says:

    Lisa, Your heart is too big, if that’s possible. For him to make demands like that, he’s not hungry. You have come a long way because personally, I could not have gone back to him with the food. But, you are right…let God be the judge.

  7. Diana says:

    What a blessed reminder that we should all step back and soften our hearts to others. But for the grace of God goes I.

  8. Marija says:

    Thank you for your post! It was just what I needed to hear. Too often I try to play God and decide if someone is “worthy” of my time or money instead of simply praying and asking God to lead and being willing to follow his answer.

  9. Geneva says:

    This made me cry because it exposed my lack of concern and help for the needy. Thank you.

  10. Marija says:

    Thank you for posting this! It was just what I needed to hear. Too often I try to judge if someone is really “worthy” of my time, effort, or money instead of just asking God to lead me and following His promptings.

  11. joy says:

    Last week I attended the Usborne National Convention. At the last minute my family (husband and 3 kids under the age of 10) decided they would join me. My middle daughter (7) has faced a bully all year who claimed to be her best friend. He spread horrible rumors about her. Another group of boys decided it would be fun to play a game with her called “ball crusher” and run up to her at recess and grab her private parts. They also decided they would show her their private parts for “fun”. She told. No one believed her. The boys drew graphic pictures of boy private parts and bondage in her indoor recess quiet time journal. It went on for months until she finally confided in us. There were lots of signs that something was wrong and I will live with that guilt for a long time. My trust is gone. My heart is hard. While in Tulsa, she (my 7 year old) spotted a lady with a similar sign on the side of the road. Her little heart is not hard. She still trusts. She still sees the need. She asked her dad to turn the car around and give the lady all their leftovers and cash he had. While I know it is my job to tach and love them and most of all keep them safe, they teach me lessons FAR more important. Heading over to check out the shine project! :) Thanks for always being transparent and sharing all that you do!

  12. molly says:

    this is AWESOME. it’s so timely – i’ve been feeling God work in my heart a lot lately. spreading His love is all i keep my eyes on :)

    still being [molly]

  13. Victoria says:

    Good point! i really don’t think I have any more right than him or you or anyone else to be so demanding and particular, thanks for sharing.

  14. victoria says:

    We did 25 random acts of kindness at Christmas time. One day, we went into the dollar store and hid $1 bills in the toy aisle with a little note. As we were leaving the dollar store, we saw a woman walk out ahead of us, she dropped all 10 of our notes on the ground and was shoving the $10 in her pocket. At first I got really mad, and as I sat in my car, I realized she had 5 kids in tow, and she had left the parking lot, and pulled into the gas station. She probably needed it. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      That is crazy! Such a good story. And you’re right–maybe she needed it. I think our part is just to care for others–and leave the rest up to God.

      • Diana says:

        Who really knows…..finding that $10 might have the biggest blessing that lady could have had. We just don’t know what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes.

  15. Maya says:

    I am actually reading “an Invisible Thread” all about a woman who bought a lunch for an 11 year old boy, and it changed both of their lives. Good job Lisa! Random Acts of Kindness are great things to do ourselves and teach our children.

  16. Mary Beth says:

    Thanks so much, Lisa, for this honest, thought provoking post. Gives me a lot to think about.

  17. Moriah Sunde says:

    A similar thing happened to me, and it took me a long time to realize what you quickly learned from your experience. I gave a homeless person my subway lunch (something that I can rarely afford myself and saw it as a treat. God told me to give it up, and as much as I didn’t want to, I did) and he asked me if it had mustard on it. It did, and he turned it down. I really actually pretty mad that he turned down what God told me to give him. I realized later that maybe if I were the homeless person and someone offered me something I hated, like sour krout or something super gross, I’d probably turn it down, too! haha I shouldn’t have judged the homeless man’s motives and if I really wanted to make a difference in his life, I should have gone and bought him a sandwich without mustard. That’s where change would have really happened. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  18. Jessica says:

    Hi Lisa, I appreciate your honesty in sharing this and your heart for wanting to help him out. I, along with some friends have also struggled with what you wrote.

    You may have already worked through these thoughts, but I thought I’d share :). I’ve realized through this journey that it is easy for us to judge the homeless when they don’t just “gratefully” take whatever we offer their way (whether it’s leftovers, clothes, or money). We can forget that they, like us, are people God created with likes and dislikes. They have favorite colors, favorite clothes, favorite people. And they have taste buds. They, like us, have favorite foods and restaurants – even though they may not be able to afford it on their own. They may not feel like they have as many great choices in life as the non-homeless, so when it comes down to it, if someone will give them a choice of what to eat, I can understand their need to be specific.

    I have come to realize that it is our honor and privilege to be able to respect their humanity and individuality by not assuming we understand their needs (such as: all homeless ppl must be really starving for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), but by treating them as people who have opinions and preferences when the rest of society ignores them as inconveniences or lumps them all together as a general population.

    In the end, it is a lifelong journey for all of us to understand what God calls us to when he tells us to love the least of these and I still have a lot to learn. Thank you for sharing your heart!

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      Thanks for your insight Jessica. I completely agree with you–actually you are speaking right to my heart. As we interacted {the homeless man and I} I became aware of my own pride. And it surprised me.
      Every one has their story and their struggles. And each of us is loved and precious to God.

  19. Kelly says:

    Whew, this is a tough one. His attitude would’ve made me grumpy too. But you’re ahead of me — alone, out with my child, I know I wouldn’t have offered to stand in line for this guy. It would’ve been easier to give him $5 and not judge what he did with the money.

    I’ll be pondering this for a while! “Beggars CAN be choosers!” Ha.

  20. Carol says:

    Sometimes I think we’re so busy patting ourselves on the back for helping that we don’t see the humanity behind the cardboard sign. A man with a cardboard sign has already surrendered most of his dignity; let’s not complicate things further by denying him the basic right to have a choice in how we help.

  21. Heather says:

    Wow, Lisa! Thank you for sharing this experience with me. I am impressed/surprised by so many things that you said about this exchange:
    I was shocked about the man’s specific request for food.
    I loved that you were honest about your reaction to his requests, and to not wanting to go to Chipotle.
    Did you really say, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen?” when he suggested babysitting? LOL!

    And, I’m most curious to know…did the young man THANK YOU? ( I certainly hope so.)
    I loved this story, and thank you again for sharing it. It has me thinking about how much I judge other people (homeless and otherwise). And reading others’ comments has got me thinking even more about how we shouldn’t deny others the basic qualities of every human being: tastes, preferences, wants vs. needs, etc.
    I am going over to the original Shine Project post and reading more about it. Maybe God has you sharing this story to help more of us in this area!

  22. Tricia says:

    I love this post – I read your blog almost every day and am so inspired by your life. I went out for lunch with my two teenagers this afternoon, and we talked about your experience. At first we were shocked that the man would be so specific. But sharing your experience really challenged us to think about, if we truly love someone and were getting them something for lunch, we would ask them what they wanted rather than just buying them anything. I never would have thought to ask the person what they would like, so thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      Wow Tricia, thank you for your kind words. That is so cool that you were chatting about it over lunch and that the post changed your perspective–that totally makes my day! xx

  23. Phyllis says:

    W-o-w. NEVER have I thought about your point, “Do I have a right to be more demanding than he does?”. Whoa. What perspective this gave me today. I usually come here for “Hello Monday” or to see what cute outfit you’ve put together or what your sweet family is up to. Today I received a major lesson on serving unconditionally. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love your heart and disagree when you said you have a long way to go. I believe you were being Christ to him with your CHIPOTLE carne asada bowl, hold the t and l. : ) (On a lighter night: I think you served the homeless ‘When Harry Met Sally’ guy!) : )

  24. Julie says:

    I love what Carol says above. So true. At first, when I read this, I thought “no way would I accommodate that”! Then I realized I’m a vegetarian; if someone offered me a steak, I would likely turn it down in hopes of vegetarian food. I also thought about if I were buying a FRIEND lunch. Would I immediately think, “no way, I’m not accommodating your request….you get what you get!” Of course not. Thanks for sharing; especially your honest perspective. Giving us all food for thought today!

  25. Jo says:

    Maybe your gift was your conversation with him Lisa to make him feel like a human being again.
    “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
    Mother Teresa

  26. Alicia says:

    One day while driving with my boys, we saw a homeless man sitting by the side of the freeway ramp. The boys began to ask questions and I was explaining the issues some people had with giving money, where would it be used, how would it be used, etc… My son (8 at the time) said to me, “Mom, aren’t we supposed to help poor people? Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?”

    In that moment, I realized that I had a bad attitude about it. I am called to serve others, and allow God to deal with what happens with my offerings. I am called to obedience and being the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. My son reminded me that day that I need to let go of my own feelings of justice and follow Jesus.

  27. Marija says:

    “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”(Matthew 25:37-40 KJV)

  28. Shannon says:

    While what you did is a very sweet thing, your experience is why I think it’s a better idea to carry gift cards to places like Subway. You can get them in small deniminations like $5 and that’s enough for a homeless person to get a decent meal with a drink.

  29. Jazzmine says:

    Your blog is so inspiring Lisa!
    I loved not only your story, but all your loyal readers thoughts on it as well.

  30. Amanda says:

    I appreciate your transparency and your huge heart! I love the dialogue this post started-all challenging and food for thought.

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