I am sitting here with tears streaming down my cheeks tonight. I cannot stop the floodgate that has opened up, and honestly I don’t want to. The tears are for a man that no one cared about.
But that’s not entirely true. I did.
His name was Danny Pilcher. He was homeless – one amongst thousands on the streets of Houston and around our country and world. To most of you, he was just a nameless face weathered by hard times, a vagabond not worth a second look, or perhaps the man who made you reach up and lock your doors when you saw him, ragged and dirty, standing on the street corner.
I wrote another blog about him a year or so ago. I will have to find and repost it later, when my heart stops hurting so much. Because right now, it feels like it is going to implode.
Danny sat on the same street corner weekend after weekend, selling his newspapers, minding his own business, just being Danny. He made a little extra spending cash for food and, yes, cigarettes by devotedly selling his papers. He was also one of the men on the routes that the homeless ministry we liaison for, Hope Beyond Bridges, fed and ministered to every single Saturday.
I can still smell the stagnant scent of cheap cologne and cheaper cigarettes lingering on his skin as he leaned in to hug me, the sandpaper of his stubble face against my cheek.
He stood on the corner across from our church, and we saw him every Sunday. We always hoped for a red light so that we had a few precious moments to love on him – and vice versa. Every week he looked for our car and ran excitedly over, momentarily neglecting his only source of income just to spend a few moments with our family. He would lean in and hug me and then kiss both of my cheeks. He would tell me without fail how ‘beautiful’ I was and often jested that he’d like me to find a woman like myself for him.
He never failed to say, “I love you!” before that light turned green and our too-short moments were over and we drove away.
He knew my children by name. They clamored for him every week and begged to stop and see him. “Danny, Danny!” they would yell out the window to get his attention. If we were going the other direction we would honk and wave enthusiastically out the window, and he would return the wave with joy.
Sometimes, if the timing was just right and we had a full red light, I would jump out of my van right there at one of the busiest intersections in Houston and give him a big hug in the middle of heavy traffic, oblivious to all of the people in their fancy dresses and expensive cars staring at us, the homeless man and the well-groomed woman with two kids. We loved him, our Danny.
Sometimes we would even park at the gas station across the way and dart across traffic, testing our Frogger skills just to bring him a hot meal…or a pair of long johns. He always greeted us with a hug and a smile. He warmed your heart. Always.
And now he’s just…gone.
Yes, he was probably nobody to anybody else. Just another nameless, worthless, freeloading, homeless man – a bunion on the heel of society. But he was so much more. Beneath the ragged outer shell of a man who had been beaten up by time and seen more than his fair share of hard times, there was a kind, gentle, sweet soul who longed to be loved.
He was more than a nameless man, he was our dear friend.
And so tonight my heart bleeds for Danny. My heart bleeds for the hundreds and thousands of other homeless men and women who we drive by every day without a second glance. Does anyone know their names? Has anyone told them they are loved? Has anyone hugged their necks? Has anyone every yelled their names gleefully?
If not us, then who?
Is it easy to love the homeless? No. But the Jesus in us helps us to see past the sin that we are all born into and to the heart of a man. If Jesus, in his beautiful, perfect deity was willing to offer us in our brokenness grace unto a cross, who are we to offer any less to the children he loves? If He came to this earth to save all men, who are we to decide who is worth saving? If He was willing to sacrifice it all for Danny, then why aren’t we?
What if we took a chance and got to know their stories. What if we took a chance and told them ‘I love you’. What if we hugged their necks and told them that they mattered to at least one person in this great big, cruel world. And that they mattered to God.
Because they do. Immensely.
Danny mattered to God…and to me. Everyone deserves to know that they are loved. EVERYONE.
Tonight I can’t stop crying for the man that no one cared about. Because I cared.
Deeply. So much it hurts.
Tonight I ask you a favor. Take a moment to pray for the homeless. Pray for protection, provision, and most of all salvation. And the next time you see a man on the corner with a sign, don’t roll up your window and lock the door. Instead, ask his name and take a chance to tell him God loves him. He just might be your Danny.
Danny Pilcher, we love you. You mattered immensely to somebody, and you will be sorely missed.
Beautifully, Brokenly Yours,