Living life by Grace is a concept that I presume some of America’s homeless know firsthand. And perhaps, many of us would have a better appreciation for life if we knew personally what it was like to live on the streets and live off the remnants of the streets for days, months and oftentimes years. It’s humbling to see it and a sobering reality to live it.
For weeks I've walked by a homeless man named Gary, who lives in a broke down blue pickup truck parked in the corner of a Home Depot parking lot. Gary seems to be a pleasant guy, he never bothers anyone, and he does what he has to, to get by on the streets by panhandling very discretely to avoid being arrested.
He appears to be an elderly man, but I don’t know Gary’s complete history or specifically why he’s living in a pickup truck, but as I journey across Houston, daily, I find myself encountering several interesting people like Gary who make the best of their lives, while living on the streets. Earlier this week, Gary was mistakenly arrested (but later released) for breaking the window of a local carry-out pizza restaurant, simply because his clothing fit the description of the suspect and to make matters worse, a few days before that, Gary’s truck was towed, which forced him to take refuge under a nearby tree. Two days ago, I sought him out to give him some food I had saved for him. He seemed happy about it. I was on my way to practice my guitar and we had a laugh about me being left-handed. He said, "Too bad you're a lefty. I played guitar my whole life, but I can't teach a lefty". The next day, another gentleman named Ben, who talks with Gary sometimes, later approached me in a place of business and asked, “Aren't you the woman who gave my friend Gary something to eat?” I said “yes I am. How did you know?”
Ben went on to say, “Gary told me and he said I really needed that food she gave me man, I really appreciated it.” It warmed my heart to know that it meant that much to him. Ben also said this, “Do you remember his truck? Well the tow truck guy felt bad for him and instead of taking it to impound, he dropped it in a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot. Wal-Mart will let you park and sleep anytime”. What was even more amazing is that a guy Ben knew recognized the truck parked at Wal-Mart and asked him if it was the homeless guy’s truck. That led Ben to find Gary to let him know his truck was safe and nearby.
This is clearly a demonstration of Grace. By law, Gary really had no right to park his pickup truck on private property nor did he have a right to sleep there, but somehow the Universe gave him a second chance, through the heart of a Tow Truck Driver, a kind man he befriended and a retail giant, after a previous law suit, declares that anyone could take refuge in their parking lot and ultimately spared Gary the loss of the vehicle that was home to him. Who knows, perhaps Home Depot will follow suit one day, making it possible for those in need of a rest during their travels or in Gary’s case, to have somewhere they can park for a while until they can find their way home.
I imagine him being quite surprised to find out his truck had been moved to a place where he wouldn't have to worry about it being towed again. Imagine yourself, living in your car; perhaps some of you already know what that’s like. Perhaps one day Gary will be able to park his truck in his own driveway, but for now he’s been given an opportunity to sleep in his truck without the fear and stress of having it towed.
I don’t know what life choices or circumstances led Gary to the streets, but I do know people like him can teach us a lot about living by Grace and doing it with a whole lot of gratitude and appreciation.
" But for the Grace of God there go I" ~John Bradford