By Burt Kruhm
The Colorado Rockies were playing in Denver for their first year ever, and I was ecstatic that I was going to attend a major league baseball game for the very first time. I was meeting my family at the gate; we were looking forward to a fabulous evening.
I decided to park on the street several blocks away, and was walking hurriedly toward the ball park—when I saw a man lying in a doorway of an abandoned building. At first, I thought he might be injured, and walked over to him—but realized he was passed out. Seeing the duffle bag and sleeping bag next to him, it occurred to me he was probably homeless. Normally I would have reacted to this encounter by detouring around him and rushing away, not knowing or even caring what to do about it. But then, that haunting quote “There, but for the Grace of God, go I” came slamming into my head.
I had thought about that quote before; but this time it hit me right in the heart. Already about 10 feet past the man, I stopped, went back, and looked closer to see what his situation really was. He reeked of alcohol and his clothes were badly soiled; I estimated he was somewhere in his 60’s. “Everyone starts out as a baby,” I thought, and the possibilities of what had happened to him between “baby” and now rushed into my consciousness like a speeding freight train. “My God,” I thought, “except for a couple of fortunate circumstances, that really could be me!”
I crouched down to take a closer look, gently grabbed his forearm and shook it a little… there was no response. I could see that he was breathing—laboriously so—and thought for a moment that maybe I should call the police or fire department to get him some help. I worried, though, that he might be hauled off to a detox center and then to jail. “He deserves better,” I thought. Now, I was late to meet my family—no cell phone—no way to call to tell them. So, I walked away—disgusted with myself for not knowing what to do, and overwhelmed with sadness that a child of God had reached such a state.
The vision of that man permeated my mind for the entire ball game, and has ever since. It transformed me from at best an indifferent person to one who can’t possibly do enough to bring this world closer to everyone having the dignity of basic necessities, including food, shelter, clothing, and access to sanitary facilities.
All those of us who care can do is to keep planting seeds of compassion everywhere we can and hope that at least some of them will grow. If even one person emerges from a life of poverty because of our efforts, then our lives will have counted for something.