Friday, October 9, 2009


Last night we met Julie's dad and brother after our flight home. Julie went ahead while I used the bathroom, and when I caught up I found her talking with a man I didn't know. I figured he was hitting on her. So I puffed up my chest, put a "Don't mess with me" look on my face, and strutted over to her.

I was quickly deflated when I got close enough to hear what he was saying. I won't try to quote him, because it wouldn't do him justice. He spoke eloquently. The bottom line was that he was recently laid off from Boeing where he worked as a machinist. His daughter had recently moved in with him, and brought an infant with her. He apologized for being there, apologized for even having to ask, but he asked nonetheless. He just needed a little money for baby formula.

I asked his name, and he replied, "Warren." I introduced myself and shook his hand. His hand was clean and he had a firm handshake.

Having worked in a manufacturing facility, I at least know what a machinist is and what one does. So I casually asked a couple of questions about his job, just conversationally. Isn't it terrible that my initial instinct is to not trust? I know I'm not alone in that, but...isn't there something messed up about that?

I used to live close to a shopping center where you could almost always count on running into the same guy begging for a handout. I knew his name, and I knew that he had a cocaine addiction. These things I learned through talking with him.

The first time I met that guy, I gave him a few dollars. And I can't tell you how many times after that he asked, not recognizing me. I'd address him by name, and ask him how he was doing with his cocaine problem.

"It's hard." "Not very well." "I'm working on it."

More than once I told him I wouldn't be giving him any money, and to come back to me when he really wanted help. He never did.

I don't know why I tell that story except to paint a stark contrast between that person and the one I met last night. It's not just that Warren was clean and pleasant. It was that he was incredibly lucid, and more importantly, there was a real pain...a shame in his expression that you couldn't miss. And I'm not saying he had any need to be ashamed.

We gave him some money, and I prayed with him. As I prayed, he gripped my hand tightly and began to quiver. Afterward, he wiped away tears and said the prayer was worth more than anything I could have given him. He thanked us for feeding his family and went on his way.

We got in the truck and started driving off when Julie realized we'd forgotten to give something to her dad. So I walked back to the restaurant and went in to drop it off, and I was expecting to see Warren back at the door, talking with someone else. But I didn't.

After we left, I wished we'd given him more, despite our own tough financial situation. Then I realized that what we gave him was enough, because he'd left the parking lot.

I don't really have a moral lesson, and I realize that just telling that sounds like bragging for doing the right thing. I'm really just telling you because I'd never seen something like that happen. And I know as a man how difficult it is when you can't support your family. It feels like you've been castrated of your manhood. Men that have been there understand.

I wonder if I'd be so brave as to stand outside a restaurant and beg to feed my family. I'd like to think I would, but I'm not so sure. So maybe that's my point. That guy was a hero. At least I think he was. So maybe, if you're the praying type, or even if you're not, pray for Warren. Pray for his family. Pray that he'll have a job by the end of the week. I believe he will.

And thanks for listening. Maybe I just needed to get that out.

Spiritual Journal, entry 5:

God, come in power and move in Warren's life.
Provide for his family, and go before him in every job interview.
Grow his faith and his character now like only You know how.
Give him a testimony to share.
Make us thankful for your provision.

In Jesus Name,


  1. What did Warren look like? The only reason I ask is that I was eating at restaurant, when I walked out a man named "Warren" was there. He gave me the same story about being laid off at Boeing, needing baby formula, and about how he lost all of his pride to pan handle. On his breath I smelled alcohol so I gave him nothing.

    A week later when I exited the same restaurant "Warren" was there again. He said the exact same story, but this time I just walked by. He started getting in my face and saying, I guess you don't care. As I left the parking lot I saw him run across the street and pocket some money from someone else.

    The man I saw, whose name was Warren as well, was an African American man about 6' with a blue sweatshirt.

  2. He was shorter than me, and I'm just 5'9", but he was African American. Do you live in Orange County?

  3. I was visiting the Long Beach area. LOL! What are the chances! I drove down from Northern California to visit some of my friends who live there.

    You got conned my friend.

  4. It's quite possible I was deceived. But assuming that guy was there multiple nights doesn't mean his story was untrue, nor does his supposed drinking. It's entirely likely that such a situation would not be resolved overnight. And that's assuming you are more believable than he. I am forced to weigh your motive to undermine me against the propensity for beggars to be untruthful. To be honest, it's a tough choice. Nonetheless, thank you for your input.

  5. If that helps you sleep better . . .

  6. By the way, the last time I visited there was back in March. So, yes . . . he was there more than a few nights if he just did that to you. Denial is hard to overcome, but you will get there.

  7. Umm, ok. Thanks for your input. But let me ask you a question. What is the greater evil: to give a little money to someone that's going to spend it on alcohol or to turn a blind eye to someone that legitimately needs help?

  8. money to someone in need? that sounds like socialism...

  9. You can reason it all you want . . . Denial is still hard to overcome.

    Fact: Warren is a professional pan handler of the worst kind; he brings religion and family into it to trap poor marks like yourself.