He was an intimidating man. He lumbered up to us as we sat in rocking chairs on the front porch of the trendy restaurant; talking about nothing in particular as we digested the five-star meal my friend had paid for as a treat for me.
“I’m really sorry to bother y’all. Do you have a dollar or two for me to get something to eat?”
I hopped up off the porch and met him on the lawn in front of the restaurant. He was even larger from here – and although he was slouched over, I was dwarfed standing next to him. My male friend raced down and stood nervously by, saying “Regina, give him a dollar and let’s go”. But I knew there was more to this man. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“They call me Big Mike, Ma’am. Because, you know…I’m big.”
I extended my hand and he shook it firmly, looking me in the eye but then quickly looking away. “I’m Regina. It’s nice to meet you. What’s your story, Mike?”
Big Mike was an Army veteran. His shoulders squared with pride as he shared that part of his life. He had been a successful businessman, with a wife and kids, his own home. But long hours took their toll, so he turned to drugs to give him energy. Then he was hooked. Then he began to spiral. Then he cheated on his wife, and she threw him out. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke of his love for his family, and the pain he couldn’t recover from – the hurt he caused them. “I’m clean now,” he said. “6 months. I am trying to get work and to get back on my feet so I can ask for her forgiveness. I want to go home. I don’t deserve it, but I want to go home.”
My heart was broken. I know the grip of addiction and I know the pain of loss. My friend had gone back to sit down, long since deciding that trying to pull me away was a hopeless endeavor. Big Mike and I talked for nearly an hour. Gradually he was able to look at me for longer periods of time. I had my hand on his arm and felt compelled to hug him often during our talk.
He cried and said “Ma’am, no one has touched me or spoken to me kindly in over a year.”
I reached into my purse for the $10 I knew was there. It was all I had. My bank account was empty. My car sat a few feet away, on empty. But I would worry about that later. For now, Big Mike needed a good meal, a bed and a shower at the Salvation Army. The cost was $10. I didn’t even look down as I handed the bill to him, pressed it into his hand and said “God bless you, Mike. I wish I could do more.” He opened his hand and his eyes grew wide.
“Are you sure, Ma’am?”
Yes, Mike, I assured him. I want you to have a safe night and a warm bed. Shaking his head in disbelief, he held up the crisp $100 bill.
My breath caught in my throat. I was financially down and out myself. I hadn’t had a $100 bill in my possession for years. Yet there it was. I myself was now in shock, and my thoughts immediately went to a God who is so big, He held Big Mike in the palm of His hand.
I hugged Mike, and still in a bit of disbelief, went back to my friend. As we walked to my car, I heard Big Mike inviting many of the other homeless people to go with him to get a meal and a shower, wanting to share his good fortune with them.
I opened my purse to look for my keys, and there, lying in full view, was my $10 bill.
And that my friends, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For God so loved Big Mike…the man who had sinned against God and against his family, but who searched for love and forgiveness. The man who society wouldn’t touch but God would. The man who God reached out to and blessed, so that he would share the good news with his friends. The man who was on a quest for redemption – and found a bit of it that night on the street.
And the girl who simply shared the message, and became a part of Mike’s miracle.