As we approached, Shane greeted the guy, and started making conversation. Suddenly we were enveloped in the life of the guy, Paul, as he told us his story. He'd come from Ohio looking for work, had no family, and was sleeping on a hill by Walmart where raccoons kept him company. He'd had no luck finding a good job, and he was just trying to get by day by day, hoping that he' d be able to find some kind of work. He'd been doing construction all his life, but was getting too old for the physicality of the job. He goes to the Provo library every day looking for jobs on craigslist, but sometimes can't afford to go because it costs a dollar to use the internet. He gets around by walking and riding the bus, and then sits at Walmart and waits. He showed us the leads he'd gotten from people that day, phone numbers to call, people to talk to, and Shane also gave him some info on jobs he'd had working in Orem. As we sat and talked, it was so interesting to see the way people are as they drive by a homeless person. Some would yell out, "get a job!" and others would honk, yell, or stare. He showed us the rock he was sitting on, and told us that someone leaving Walmart had tried to run over a homeless guy sitting there awhile before. We saw the tracks of the car, the broken up rock, and I just kind of wondered what kind of a person would do that. I mean, seriously? While some people were a little less than accommodating to Paul, others stopped and gave him a few bucks as they passed. The gratitude exhibited in Paul's voice as he said thank you showed how truly thankful he was for the little money he had. "Now I can do my laundry!" he exclaimed, and repeatedly told us that we must be a good luck charm for him that night, because people were never so generous. We talked to Paul for a good 45 minutes or so, and then our meeting was cut short when Paul spotted a policeman pulling someone over. He folded up his sign, put it in his bag, and said the cops didn't like to see him with his sign out. He told us how thankful he was that we came and talked to him- he obviously didn't get a lot of social interaction- and when someone did talk to him, they were in for an earful.
While all this was going on, I thought about how I could help Paul- I didn't have any money on me, food, or anything. I mentally went through my wallet, accounting for the items I had in there. Then, suddenly, I remembered I had a pass along card a missionary at BYU had given me this summer in my wallet.( A pass along card is, well, a card that has a picture, like of Christ or the temple, on the front, and on the back there is a number to contact missionaries if you're interested in investigating the LDS church.) I pulled it out, and as we talked, I debated as to whether or not I should give him the card. Surely he knew about Mormons- he was in Utah! Our conversation with Paul went on, and I made up my mind that I would give him the card. As we shook his hand and said goodbye, Shane handed Paul a 5 dollar bill, and I handed him the card. "Sir, I don't have any money to give you, but I do have this card. I don't know how much you know about the LDS church, but they might be able to help you- I know they've helped me in my life. If you're interested, call the number on the back." Is what I told Paul as I handed him the card. He turned it over in his hands, and asked me what the building was on the front of the card. "The Nauvoo Temple," I said, "isn't it pretty?". He said, "Oh, yes, Illinois!", thanked me, and put the card in his pocket. We said goodbye, and got back in the car.
Missionary deed for the day? Done.
As Corey, Shane, and I drove back to campus, we talked about Paul, his circumstances, poverty, and I reflected on my life a little. Looking back, I have concluded that I am not proactive enough in my life when it come to helping people. I think about doing good things, but I don't act. Action is all that matters. From this experience I learned 2 important lessons:
1. I am going to be more mindful of the less fortunate. It is all too common that I shrug them off. Many are victims of circumstance, and I have been given way too much to think I don't have a little to share with others.
2. I am going to carry a pass along card in my wallet from now on. Although I have no idea if Paul will actually look at the card ever again, I would like to think that now he is a step forward on the road to employment and in learning the gospel.
Funny the lessons you can learn at Walmart..