Last year I bought lunch for a guy who had scraped his pennies together for a cup of tea. He rewarded me by telling me a little about his life, how he had lost the battle with drink but how faith had turned his life around. Now, when most men his age would be enjoying their retirement, he lived in a hostel and spent his time distributing religious tracts to shops, offices and strangers in the street.
Well, yesterday Julie and I were back in the same coffee shop. Julie looked over my shoulder and saw the same man, sitting there with a solitary cup of tea, dressed as he had been the time before despite the fact that the outside temperature was sub-zero.
We finished our bowls of piping hot soup with crusty bread then I got up and walked over. Knowing he would not remember me I sat down beside him and asked, "How's God's work going?"
He didn't remember who I was but my question had told him what I was.
"God's work is going as God's work goes," he said. "Wonderfully."
"And how about you?"
He pursed his lips. "That doesn't matter."
(As I write this I remember that he had told me the previous year he had some form of cancer.)
"Well, it does," I dared to suggest. "You need to be well to keep on doing the good work."
"Like today," I said. "It's freezing out there. And it takes a lot of energy to keep going on a day like this. I tell you what. My wife and I just had some of the soup and it was delicious. Really. It was so nice. Let me get you some so you can try it."
He raised a hand of protest, but I ... well, I ignored him. A moment later I sat a hot bowl of soup, a bread roll, and butter in front of him.
"Enjoy!" I said, and walked back to my table before he had a chance to reply.
Julie and I finished our drinks and got our stuff together. As we walked past his table I patted the man's shoulder and said, "Just know you are loved."
He started to say something, changed his mind and instead said, "I do know."
And we went on with our shopping. But this isn't a story about how kind I was. The bowl of soup was the very least of it. It's a reminder (as it was for me) that, even in these days) there are people out there, living alongside society, doing God's work and being totally dependent on God for provision.
And for a brief time yesterday we got to be a small part of God's provision for one of them!