Monday, February 12, 2007

Ralph

I need to talk today about Ralph. I started noticing Ralph at the beginning of January. He would be sitting alone at a table at Starbucks in Vons. From the looks of him, I thought he was probably homeless. And I saw him day after day.

So one very cold morning I bought him a cup of coffee and gave it to him on my way out with the passing words, "Hope this will warm you up." He smiled and thanked me.

The next day we were there again. This time I went over and asked him if he'd like a cup of coffee. "I can't actually drink coffee," he replied. "But I love hot chocolate." So from then on, hot chocolate it has been. As the weeks have gone on I have spent a more time at the table with Ralph. Not wanting to be intrusive, yet really wanting to know more about him. Today I found out that he lives behind Vons.

Keira is always with me when we go and has really taken a liking to Ralph. This morning she ran right over to him and gave him a huge hug. And I got some seriously dirty looks from the other patrons, like 'what do you think you're doing letting that little girl run over to that dirty, old homeless man who is invading our Starbucks??' I wanted to yell at all of them....."I know EXACTLY what I am doing? I am allowing my daughter to humanize a man who is marginalized by society! I am allowing my daughter to see past clothes and cleanliness...to look at a person as a PERSON! To love unconditionally as Jesus did! I know EXACTLY what I am doing! And you should be ashamed of yourselves for not doing the same."

But I didn't yell....I just looked at Keira and Ralph and smiled...and then looked at all of those around me and smiled.

Now I have also taught my children to be careful of strangers. And that some people who ask for money and stuff (which Ralph has never done) don't really need the stuff...they are just looking for cash to support a habit. Kade had a perfect opportunity to learn about this one day. We were going into a Circle K to get him a Gatorade before a baseball game. A guy approached us and asked for money. I told him no but that if he was thirsty or hungry I'd be glad to get him something to drink or eat. "Oh fine," he said. So we got him a bottle of water and some chips, gave it to him, and before we were even out of the parking lot he was trying to sell them to someone. It was a great lesson for Kade, this guy wasn't hungry, this guy was jonesing for something.

I'm not looking for any praise for being a friend to Ralph. I just need to talk about it. Get out some of my frustration at people who think they are so much better than him - when really, we are all just a few steps or circumstances away from where he is. Kathy called me on Thursday. I have been able to introduce her to Ralph. She said, "Pray for him today. People are just being nasty." Why do we have to be nasty!?!?

Keira wants to get Ralph some "fancy clothes" (her words) for his birthday. So I think we will go shopping and get him a backpack and some new things. And we will continue to be his friend, learning more about him without making him feel self-concious about his situation.

So what's the point today? I guess it's just be aware. Look around. Who can you be a friend to today?

7 comments:

Chrissie said...

Good for you. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!! What a great story...that's has uplifted my day no end.

Really...GOOD for YOU!

Cheryl Wray said...

What a wonderful post today!! You are teaching your children the right thing absolutely; it is something I try and teach my three girls too. To treat others like Christ would want us to treat them, and that He always reached out to "the least of these."
Also wanted to tellyou how much I love your Faith shirt at Cafe Press. Great design!!

Laura said...

That is so great of you to take Ralph in like you have and teach your children the wonderful lessons of the world. I'm sure Ralph appreciates the company far more than the hot chocolate even.
Thanks for sharing your story Julie.

Catherine said...

What a great example for all of us!

Julie O said...

I've recieved the same looks. We have prayed for, said hello to, and bought sodas for the man at Carl's Jr. (Johnson) We worry when we don't see him. I have to be honest and say that I haven't taken the next step. I can't get him out of my head either. Maybe there is a reason for that. Thanks for the encouragement. How great that Ralph was honest and told you he liked hot chocolate. People will have their dislikes about this post too, their opinions but the bottom line is spreading God's love. If we as people can't say that is our goal then what is the point?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

whatever you did to the least of these...... now who was it that said that?

sara said...

I love that Ralph and Keira are friends now. I always give the woman (the one with the kids) by Target some kind of snack thing that I have just bought at Target. One day, I hope, Avery will give her some snacks. You go girl!!