I dash into the store for the buns, a quart of milk, some sandwich meat and cheese, and then I scurry past them back to the comfort of our flat – safe and sound – to enjoy continental breakfast with my wife.
This morning was different. There was one bun left from breakfast. Why not prepare it for those, whom I thought, were less fortunate?
We got ready to go to the Kurfürstendamm to take care of some errands. I wrapped the sandwich in plastic wrap, and off we went to find the little family.
We approached them and introduced ourselves.
“This is Barbara, and my name is Wesley,” I said.
Then I got my first surprise. The younger person I thought was a man turned out to be Sandra. Then I met her friend, Alex, and their dog Harry.
“Do you realize, you don¹t need to live here under this bridge?” I said to begin my little conversation. “You can start over. The city mission has a place for you.”
Then came the second surprise.
“That’s a little complicated,” Sandra replied. “And besides, I believe God is watching over us. We have everything we need.”
I looked over to their belongings – two sleeping bags, the typical plastic bags with empty plastic bottles to turn into cash, and, of course, a comfortable mat for Harry. It wasn’t much, but who was I to judge?
“You are probably more content with your lot than I often am,” I said, realizing that my purpose in coming here was not quite what I expected.
I met with Sandra again the next week over a cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake. I wanted to know more about why she had chosen this life. Where did she find her purpose?
She was 31. She didn’t have medical insurance. She had broken her leg last summer, and it had healed on its own.
She didn’t have any connection to her parents or even an ID.
“I don’t need a house,” she told me candidly. “If I had a house, I would need a refrigerator and a TV.”
She wasn’t looking to take advantage of social services or the generosity of others, just live her life.
I asked her how she would answer to God. What would she say if Jesus asked her how she had used her talents?
“I lived under a bridge and was content,” she replied without so much as a second thought.
As I think about Sandra, I am humbled. Here was another human being created in God’s image, just like myself.
I realized that God loves her just as much as he loves me. His love doesn’t change based on how good we smell, where we sleep or how often we wash our clothes.
What started as a plan to do a small act of kindness ended up as a few good life lessons. I hope I might continue to get to know these three better and see what else God might want to teach me through them.