So about that question, "What am I being called to do as a response to the Poverty Simulation?" and I had resolved that I would make more efforts to interact with the homeless.
Yesterday, during my lunch, I did just that. I wasn't able to eat, but I wanted to take a break/get out of the office building and do something. I thought about reading my book for Elevate in my car, but quickly heard the voice of God saying, "Go where you learned about being homeless, and practice what you learned."
I drove around the restaurants by work looking for a homeless person. Found my guy at Whataburger sitting under the awning. I found out his name was Yan, and he sounded educated in speech. I gave him a water bottle I had on hand, then asked if I could buy him lunch.
Yan's story quickly began to unfold. His family is from France and he moved here at 3 years old to Sugarland. He went to Texas A&M and got a degree in civil engineering, started working nearby and got married. Had a daughter (Alexandra Marie Kogevnikoff), which I thought was very pretty and French).
"I don't really know why I am on the streets. I guess it's my own fault because I was a wimp and didn't fight for my marriage," he said ruefully. He said he went through a bad divorce and then spiraled into a deep depression.
I asked how he dealt with the depression, and he said he would go to a pastor for prayer when he felt really depressed. Yan said he knows Jesus personally (and now goes to Church Under the Bridge). He said that he never got into drugs because he had seen too many friends get "messed up" and ruin their entire lives.
While we were in line, he said he was planning on asking the employees at Whataburger if he could clean their dumpster for food. He said it was a mess.
He ordered his burger with "Ranch style dressing." He kept stating it that way as he went on about how much he loved "Ranch style dressing" and how it goes with everything. He never would just say "Ranch" or "Ranch dressing," which I found amusing.
Then Yan and I sat down waiting for his food and just had a normal conversation. (I did see a coworker give me a funny look, which is understandable.) Yan told me that the reason he doesn't have a job is that his ankle is hurt badly. He rolled up his pant leg and sure enough, it was really swollen. Also, he has pretty bad seizures. He said when he "starves himself" that his seizures get worse. He was very thankful that I bought him lunch. He said if everyone was as nice as me, the world would be a better place.
We then talked about his daughter and I asked if he ever gets to talk to her. He said not often. The mother has full custody of course. Alexandra is a sophomore at A&M and is studying to be a vet, so I talked about my youngest sister who just started going to school there. I felt prompted to ask him if he wanted my sister to pass a message along to his daughter from him...that is if my sister or myself could find her on Facebook or through e-mail. He said yes and his eyes lit up a bit. He wrote, very slowly and deliberately, her name on the back of my receipt and gave it back to me. I asked what he'd like to tell her. His message was this:
I love you. I'll try to get ahold of you somehow. Have a good semester in school.
At this point, I believe I saw a tear well up and a drip from his nose onto the table. It was a very tender moment and I realized that, again, you never know what one's story is until you take the time to ask. I had to get back to work, so I said goodbye and I was glad to have met him. He looked up toward the ceiling and said "Thanks God!"