I wanted to share an experience that took place recently at Good Shepherd that really touched my heart. We had an unexpected visitor at Good Shepherd late one night during our last Vestry meeting. I think God had a hand in allowing us the opportunity to help a stranger that night. The Vestry meeting was scheduled to end at 8:30, but a couple of the topics discussed at the meeting created a lively conversation that kept us all at the Church much longer than we had planned.
At the same time a young man in his early 20's was wandering through the streets of Centennial, walking in the cold and in the rain, carrying everything he owns on his back. He had been walking for hours searching for a hotel in Centennial where he said he had a reservation. He asked numerous people for help in finding his way to The Econo Lodge, but nobody would help him. Becoming more desperate as the rain continued into the dark of the evening, his clothes soaked, his backpack getting heavier, he walked up to cars that were stopped at traffic lights, tapping on their windows, asking for help, but no one would help him. No one even opened their window to talk to him.
The young man made his way to Good Shepherd. I don't know how he found us – he had been to the nearby gas station - did someone at the gas station direct him to us? If so did they really think there would be someone at the Church this time of night that could help him, or were they just avoiding the problem like all the others he had encountered that night? Luckily there was someone at the Church - and the opportunity was suddenly there for us to help.
As I later found out, the young man's name was John and he was from Lincoln Nebraska. His father recently passed away in Nebraska, and John lost his place to live because of that. He came to Denver with his girlfriend, but she was called back to Nebraska, so he was now alone. Now, I am as leery of strangers as the next person in these situations. But John was very emotional as he stood before us in the lobby of the Church, but he didn't appear to be intoxicated or on drugs. He was just very cold and tired and discouraged after that night out in the rain. Stating that he had a hotel room nearby, Father Gary helped me locate that hotel and Greg offered to go with me to drop John off. John was so appreciative that we were going to help him. He was very polite and even warned me that his things would get my car wet. I said that didn't matter as we loaded up the car with his things. His belongings consisted of a fairly thick Afghan Style blanket that didn’t look very warm due to its very loose weave, a foam sleeping pad that he demonstrated how he had held it over his head in an attempt to keep the rain off, and a large internal frame backpack, pretty full and looked to be about 50 lbs.
On the way to the hotel John couldn't stop talking about how no one would help him. He says he was a church-going man and was desperate, why didn't anyone help him? I explained that, for me anyway, I see people like him all the time, and have a hard time distinguishing between those who really need the help and those who don't. I also admitted that most people just don't want to be bothered or get involved since they don't know how safe it is to interact with that individual.
As we were having this conversation and driving to the hotel I couldn't help but wonder if John really had a room waiting for him. It just didn't seem possible. John said it was the cheapest around and was only $25. He may have said something about a coupon he had so maybe one of the local charities had helped him with this. As we pulled up to the hotel I had decided that I wanted to make sure he had a room for the night. I was even willing to purchase a room for him if he didn't have one. As we walked into the lobby of the hotel we were greeted by the desk clerk. John greeted her like they had met before and kept walking, asking her if it was the same room again. She said it was, and asked if he had his room key. John felt his pocket and said that he did. I shook John's hand and wished him luck. His hand was very rough like he had worked with his hands all his life. As Greg and I started to leave the hotel lobby, the hotel clerk made a point to look at Greg and me and thank us for bringing John to the hotel.
The events of the evening have left me with more questions than answers. As we recently discussed looking for outreach opportunities closer to Good Shepherd there may be ones available that we just don't know about. How many people like John does this hotel cater to, and is there a way we can help them? I will leave it here for now. I am just thankful that God allowed Good Shepherd the opportunity to help a stranger and we did.
Thanks for reading and God bless.