"Hello." I said. "I'm Stevie, what's your name?"
He responded timidly, looking up at me like a child lost from his parents, mumbling his name. I didn't understand.
"What was that?"
"Joey*." He said. "I'm Joey."
I smiled and he smiled back - sort of. I won't pretend to know his life, but he smiled like someone who hadn't felt real joy - produced a real smile - in a long time.
And I was glad I stopped to talk to Joey.
I said a silent prayer of thanks. Thank you for tugging my heart when I drove by him earlier. Thank you for keeping him here until I was able to come back with some money. Thank you for leading me to come to him, to squat down where he sat, dejected, and speak to him.
My ugly plan was to hand him some money out of the window, but this - this was better - this felt right - this felt like Kindgdom space - and I love being in Kingdom space.
"What do you need Joey?"
"A place to stay." He said.
I wish I could capture in words the tone of his voice, the inflection, the emotion. Again, he reminded me of a lost child.
And I loved him.
As soon as I loved him, my heart broke. He had nowhere to sleep. I pictured him from earlier, when I first drove by. He was sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, a small bag next to him, staring into space.
He had no sign asking for money or food or work - he was just sitting. The same state I found him in 30 minutes later, still just sitting.
"I wish I could help you with that." I said. "I really do, but I can't. I can give you this." I handed him twenty dollars, wishing I pulled out more. His eyes grew three times wider.
"Really? You mean it?" Again like a child. My chest tightened. I hated the small amount. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you." He started to tear up.
"Can I pray for you?" I asked.
"Oh please, yes, please." He sobbed, already bowing his head.
I put my hand on his shoulder and he put his hand on my knee and I prayed.
"My mom is up there." He said while I prayed. "My mom is up there. She is watching over me."
So I thanked God for keeping Joey's mom, and I prayed that God would give Joey a place to live, and I prayed that the twenty dollars would be multiplied - that my little offering would call down a monsoon of blessings on him.
"And that I would be able to take care of myself." He interrupted.
So I prayed for that too.
He sobbed quietly and squeezed my knee harder and harder as I prayed. Later I would think this should have felt strange, at least a little uncomfortable, but it didn't. We were in Kingdom space.
I prayed it all, in Jesus' name, and Joey said "yes" and "amen" and I kept my hand on his shoulder, rubbing - wishing I could rub some of the pain away.
"It was really nice to meet you Joey."
He nodded, his shoulders racking with quiet sobs.
"Can I kiss you?" He asked.
I leaned forward and he kissed my cheek. It wasn't weird or awkward - we were in kingdom space.
As I drove away, I could see him in the rear view mirror, head bowed, shoulders bouncing.
"What were you talking to that guy about?" Asked my four year old from the back seat.
"We were praying."
"Why is he crying?" He asked.
I told him what I knew about Joey and we prayed for him again - me and B. We prayed for him tonight before bed, and I think we will pray for my new friend for a long time.
But there was a moment, driving away, where I hated myself. A moment where I hated the person who could connect with a broken stranger and drive away, leaving him better off by only twenty dollars.
I would drop my child at school, go to work, pick him up, have a nice dinner with friends, and settle into my warm condo with a cup of tea and maybe some TV to end the night. Yes, I would think about Joey - probably for a long time - and I would pray for him, but a fat lot of good that will do him.
He was sad. Unbearably sad. And I drove away. I suck. This world sucks.
I spent a moment deep in self-hatred before I remembered something. I have one job. Abide in Him. Abide in Him, and Kingdom space will come. This world sucks - I'm not wrong - but it's not my job to fix it. The pain and suffering of this world is not on my shoulders. "Save the world" is not on my to-do list. I don't save - I point to the one who does.
Today, abiding in him meant stopping to talk to Joey. And I'm so glad it did.