Recently, I made a quick trip to the grocery store to purchase a few items during my lunch hour. It was another hot and humid day, not at all uncommon in Louisiana! A little worn by the activities of the morning at work, and slightly irritated by the sun’s relentless rays that, at times, seemed to overpower my car’s air conditioning, I was in no hurry to get back to the office. But an hour is just one hour! As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a gentleman standing in front of a nearby tree. Rather slight in stature, he appeared to be around 70 years of age and his diminutive frame was supported only by a small chair. In his hands was a dirty glass jar that I assumed was for collecting money from passersby. As I briefly made eye contact with the stranger, I thought to myself:
Uncle Ree was one of my mother’s brothers who passed away a few years ago. Memories of him bring with them great reminders of an awesome childhood and I miss him deeply.
Pulling into a parking space quite some distance from the man in the small chair, I told myself that I would run into the store, make my purchase, and stop at the fast food restaurant just across the parking lot. The food wouldn’t be for me; I was planning to buy a fresh, hot meal for the stranger who looked so familiar. About twenty minutes passed and I made my way from the store back to my car. As I approached my vehicle, I noticed red and blue lights flashing near that old tree. The man, the one with whom I had made a silent connection in those few moments about twenty minutes earlier, was now standing between two police officers. He seemed so small and inconsequential compared to the two men. They appeared to be questioning him – as if someone called and complained about his presence in that parking lot. Yes, he may have been asking for money, but he seemed harmless enough. I felt awful by this time; I felt as if I had missed an opportunity to be a blessing to my “friend” by the tree. If only I had stopped and bought him the meal before I had gone in the store. If nothing else, his stomach would be full. Instead, my heart was full of regret and disappointment in myself.
I have heard for many years, the old adage: “There is no time like the present.” In that moment, in the grocery store parking lot, I became sharply aware of that phrase’s meaning and the power of “now”. When we have occasion to do something kind for someone or to be a blessing in some way, we shouldn’t wait until later. Don’t put off for later that which is in your power and control to do “now”.
I have gone back to that grocery store several times since that scorching, hot day a few weeks ago. Instinctively, I glance over to that old tree across the parking lot hoping to see the old man in the small chair. And even though he and I have never met and I may never see him again, he has left me with a greater understanding of what it means to seize the moment. I don’t know where the old man is, but the Lord certainly does. It is my prayer that He will bless and keep my “friend” who sat in the small chair next to that old tree across the parking lot from the grocery store.