Outside in the cold of winter is not the most ideal place for eating your evening meal. But no matter the weather, there is always a crowd when the “chicken bus” shows up. The “chicken bus” is the affectionate nickname given us by the local homeless. Just like the chicken bus, you can always count on Robert to be there. Even if you don’t see him, you know he’s close by when you see that bundle of bags he carries on his back; his only possessions which he takes everywhere. Never much for talking, at least in front of other people, in the beginning he always waited for others to eat before getting his plate, not out of respect necessarily but because of feeling like an outcast. He was always the last person to leave, staying to clean up the paper cups that others left behind. As we began to get to know him and he learned to trust us, he started staying later and later.
For a while we had to refer to him by his full name, Robert Leon Davidson. He would remind us when we didn’t. We discovered he had a love for the beach and the water. However, when offered a jeep ride on the beach, he politely refused. A life on the streets can make a person wary of others. A life on the streets can hinder your ability to relate to others.
It wasn’t always this way for Robert, as far as we know. He had a job; he had a vision for the future; he had goals he was working toward. Something happened in his life to bring him to the streets. We do not know the details, only that he was falsely accused of something he did not do. Because of that act he lost everything and found himself homeless. A life he had never imagined.
One day Ron, the Outreach Director at First Fruit Ministries, was talking to some of the guys about an experience he had with Jesus. The Lord showed up in his boat one night while he was fishing and danced with him. Robert exclaimed, “You dance with Jesus? When God touches you, you know you’ve been touched!” He got it. He knew that the Lord can change a life; he saw Him in the teams that reach out on the streets at night. We realized in that moment that we were in God’s classroom learning a lesson from one of the “lowly” about the nature of God. That all it takes is honest love and relationship to open someone’s heart.
As time passed and as we were consistent in our relationship with him, he let us use just his first name. He no longer waits until everyone has gone through to get his plate. He trusts us enough to come and use our laundry facility and take a shower. We are building a relationship with him, not for some end result, but because that is our honor. We are called to the lowly and the broken, to the poor and the captive. (Isaiah 61:1-3) Very often on the street we find, like that classroom, the roles switched; we are the students and the ones we serve are the teachers. In giving we always receive more than we share. Be blessed. Share what you have. Love with the love you have been given. Amen.