Two Christmas seasons ago on a cold Friday evening as I am crossing the street to catch my train, a man on a bicycle approaches and calls out my name. “How are you? I have not seen you in a while?”
I say, “Fine, and how about you?”
“Not so good. I am homeless and living by the train tracks. I feel like jumping in front of a freight train and ending it.”
Wow. Not the type of words I want to hear after an exhausting work week. I offer him a few bucks for a hotel room. Bill declines my offer—he already has a room for the night, but after that is back on the street. Not knowing what to do I exchange phone numbers and promise him we will find a solution. We agree to meet Monday morning at my office.
All weekend I rack my brain trying to figure out how to arrange a place to stay for a man living in Orange County and making minimum wage. I have no solution.
Bill shows up at 7:00 in the morning, and we meet in my conference room. Surrounded by the collective wisdom of over 1,000 volumes of books, surely there must be an answer to such a simple problem. He does the math and tells me that there is no way on his salary that he can afford anything. Not knowing what to do I ask if we can pray. As I open my eyes, like a bolt of lightning from above, I see clearly the answer. I remember an elderly woman who rents rooms in her large home to single men—much to the chagrin of her children! The place is within a mile of his job and an easy commute for one whose means of transportation is a bike. Now all we need to figure out is how to come up with first and last months’ rent.
Bill hands me an envelope provided to him at the local shelter. Inside is a letter and application from an organization a few blocks from the office. Fifty years in the community, and I had never heard of this group that provides first month and deposits for homeless people that can prove steady employment.
Early on the day after Christmas, I meet Bill at a local storage yard to retrieve his meager belongings and head to his new home. As I leave and drive off tears are running down my face from the overwhelming feeling of knowing a God that answers the prayers of his people.
Mark Von Esch is a lawyer practicing in Fullerton, and an Elder in the La Sierra University Church.