I was in a hurry. Annoyed, I weaved my cartful of groceries around the man and his dog. Both stood right by the exit of the big box store. What an odd couple at an odd place.
He was thin and tall, thirty-something. Long, black dreads fell into a dark and deeply scared face. His partner, a short-legged, bulky mutt, pit bull terrier maybe, sat next to him wearing a service dog vest. The leash, attached to dog but not to owner, lay on the ground, demonstrating the animal’s obedience. Both had drawn a small crowd, making it hard for me to get around. What’s more, a young woman immediately in front of me came to a sudden stop, squealed with delight, and bent down to pet Bulky. I almost ran into her.
Not wanting to be rude, I maneuvered around the commotion and managed a halfhearted smile while I turned toward Dreads.
“Nice dog,” I said and nodded in Bulky’s direction.
“Thanks,” he said, picked up his head slightly and smiled back. Our eye contact lasted not more than a couple of seconds.
I sighed with relief when I opened my trunk. Finally, I was able to get on the road. I threw in my oversized boxes of granola bars and fruit snacks, when I suddenly felt overwhelmed by God’s presence. In my heart I knew, He was about to speak. My spirit grew quiet, and I stood still. My throat tightened and tears welled making it hard to see. I didn’t know the cause for my tears right away, but then the images poured in.
Not long ago, I had been downtown and saw a homeless person sitting on a piece of cardboard on the side of the road. He held up a handwritten sign, something about not having a job and no money. I was in a hurry then, too. When I had gotten back to my car, I told myself the many reasons why I didn’t even make eye contact. Now, the Spirit spoke to my heart.
“My people are worth less than dogs to you.”
Tears streamed down my face as I loaded the rest and shoved the cart into the stall next to my car. It came to a halt with a loud clank. The noise could not cover another clear, almost deafening prompt of God.
There was no way was I going back to the crowd and make a fool of myself by saying I “heard God.” Who hears God anyways? I felt like I was 15 when my father told me I had to do chores. I was good at negotiations then, too.
“The only way I say something, if you bring him to me, God. If he walks up to me, I know it’s you.”
That was wise, right? I looked back down the parking lot isle and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Dreads walked up my isle toward my car. More tears. My heart thumped. He had parked right next to me, on the other side of the cart-return. He looked at me as he opened his car door.
“Are you ok, ma’am?” He clearly noticed my tears.
Embarrassed, but too afraid not to obey, I said,
“Well, has Life ever given you a lesson, spoke to you in the moment?”
“Yeah, I guess … ” he stepped toward me, tilted his head slightly and waited for me to go on.
“Life just did that to me. The first thing everyone noticed was your dog. Not you. People stopped to pet your dog. The other day I was downtown. No one cares like that for a man on a piece of cardboard. I was getting sad about it. It seems people are worth less than dogs.”
“Oh man. That’s messed up,” he paused, “I mean, it’s true. It’s deep, ma’am. So true.” He shook his head and looked to the ground.
“Sorry for bothering you,” I said.
“Na. It’s all good. This is deep, ma’am.” He didn’t say anything after that. I got in my car and he in his, and we both drove off.
“Lord, teach me to see people the way you see them. You died for them. Help me remember.”