Friday, December 08, 2006

Five Dollar Bill

In the summer of 1995, my family and I were living in Monroe, Louisiana. I had moved back to my home town to finish my engineering degree at nearby Louisiana Tech University. (Monroe has a nice University, The University Of Louisiana - Monroe, but, alas, no engineering school.)

Anyhoo, that summer, we were dying for a break from the routine. And nothing breaks up routine like a Road Trip!

We decided to go to Atlanta; it was an eight hour drive from Monroe, and we could stay a few days, see some old favorite places from when we lived there, and maybe some old friends too.

The Sunday before our trip, our pastor Mickey Humphrey, asked everyone who was willing to do something special, to raise their hand.

I raised my hand.

Brother Mickey said, I want each of you, to put a five dollar bill in your pocket. Sometime this week, you'll run across someone who needs it, and you can give it to them and Bless them in Jesus's name.

Hey. Easier than I thought. I thought.

So, I put a folded five dollar bill in my pocket every day that week, waiting for the right moment. A front pocket too, for quick and easy access.

A whole week went by, and I hadn't given away my five dollar bill.

I felt like the biggest loser, a total failure. I had failed God somehow, somewhere. My only recourse was to keep the bill in my pocket for convenience, and hope for a person that needed it.

The next week, just over a week from that Sunday, we left for our trip to Atlanta.

We got up at like 4am, hoping to be on the highway by sunrise. We wanted to get into Atlanta in the early afternoon so that we would have part of that day to use in doing whatever struck our fancy.

We got up, loaded the car, headed out, and right before we got on I-20 interstate highway, we stopped and filled the tank up with gas. Lovely wife went in and paid while I pumped the gas.

Then I backed the car over to a pay phone for Lovely Wife to use. I can't even remember what for now. Maybe to check on hotel reservations or something, but it doesn’t matter. While parked over by the pay phone, I could see a man sitting hunched over and leaning against the side of the gas station building in the dark.

The lights all around the pumps were like sunlight in their brightness, and it made the darkness beside the building stand in stark contrast.

"Give that man the five dollar bill." was what I heard in my heart. And I got that physical feeling I get, of a giant hand sqeezing my chest. I knew the Holy Spirit was talking to me.

Lovely Wife came around the car and got into the passenger front side, and I said, "I'm going to pull over there and give that man the five dollars I haven't given away yet." "Ok," was her response.

I cranked the car up, pulled over and nosed the car toward the building near the man. I opened the driver's door and stood and walked the few steps over to the man.

It was a black man, wearing a baseball cap, and sitting next to a gas can. He looked up at me.

As I approached him, I said, "Excuse me sir. This might sound crazy to you, but I have a five dollar bill that God wants me to give to you."

I reached out with the five dollar bill, and he automatically reached to take it.

His face turned to absolute wonder. His eyes got big, he started stammering. "Wha… How… Oh my goodness! Thank you! My car ran out of gas right over there two hours ago. I had this gas can, but not one penny to buy gas with. The people here at the station wouldn't let me have a gallon on my promise to return later with the money for the gas, and they also wouldn't allow me to ask anybody coming to get gas if they would let me have a couple of dollars. Man, I don't believe this."

I said, "Well, here's your money, and Bless you, in Jesus's name." I simply got back in the car and backed up and we were on our way.

And for our whole trip, while we were in Atlanta, I saw so many people begging, and homeless people after that episode. This guy I had given the money to wasn't homeless or anything, he'd just run out of gasoline in his car, and didn't even have change to call a friend. But it made me notice all those people in the Atlanta area that wanted help.

I remember being overwhelmed and breaking down and crying because we barely had money for our trip, we were on the most threadbare shoe string budget ever for a trip. I was overwhelmed at the realization that, even if I had millions of dollars to spare, it wouldn't be nearly enough, not even for the folks in that one area.

But I learned that, if you have five bucks to spare, God will provide you with someone to bless with it.

Brother Mickey Humphrey was the pastor of the church Lovely Wife and I attended when we were dating, and engaged, and he's the one that performed our marriage ceremony. He died in 1996 of cancer. He is still very much missed.

Here's one of my old slides, from 1982, of Brother Mickey at a church picnic:

Whenever I see a preacher make a spectacle of himself, such that his fall makes the evening news, I think about Godly men like Brother Mickey, and our present pastor, Pastor Mark, and am thankful that for every preacher that falls in public, there are thousands of men like this who walk the walk. It's the toughest job in the world.

1 comment:

Jenny Ryan said...

What a beautiful story-thank you!!