Sun shining, I set out on the dirt road with Sampson (our German Shepherd) on a leash for our morning walk. Many people are out walking to their jobs, it’s not time for the national kids to be hurrying to school yet. Most will return my “Hello” with a smile and respond with “Good morning!”. They eye Sampson (because there are so many wild dogs, African people tend to be very apprehensive of all dogs – unless they are exposed to our strange Western ways of keeping a dog as a pet as well as for protection), but my calm, friendly greeting brings their focus to my face and usually allays their fears.
Coming from a driveway is a young man in a well-worn suit. He returns my greeting but engages further conversation and joins Sampson and I on our walk. The road is wide and as I glanced around, plenty of people were out – situation awareness, check. The young man was looking for a new place to live, and the categorizing part of me was already analyzing “Do I help? Do I pray? What is my role here?”.
As the young man spoke and I asked more questions, he was being evicted from the room where he had been staying (they have plans for that room and have given him notice that he will need to find another place). He was born into a different tribe in another part of Uganda, grew up Muslim, never saw his father’s face. In his village, he would wear a sheet over his shoulder, not a suit as he wears today. He learned of Jesus about four years ago; his eyes shone as he shared his love for Jesus and how he loves to sing worship songs. Filling in the blanks, I wonder if he wasn’t welcome with his people once he accepted the teachings of Jesus.
I prayed for his journey, that God would direct him where to find a place to stay with good people. He looked me in the eyes and with conviction said that even though these are difficult times for him, that he is holding onto faith. “Having faith in Jesus is more than being comfortable, or food, or even a room.”
“What is it you would like from me for this day?” I asked.
His answer surprised me. “Your friendship. Your friendship is all I need. Not your money. I didn’t know I would meet you today. You didn’t know you would meet me. God knew. But if I could meet with you and you could encourage me and maybe I could encourage you. It is one God who is over us all.” He smiled. “And maybe I could have a white person friend.”
It’s quite rare to not have a monetary request made, some of which we can help, some we cannot. I thought of Peter, the orphan boy from Lokichoggio who also came into our lives one random morning and the blessing we were to each other’s lives.
Compassion comes in many forms, not all include money.
I smiled and told the young man which gate mine was. “The guard will let me in?” Valid question, since the guard’s job is to keep anyone who is not personally invited out. Maybe an equivalent example would be purposely giving someone the wrong phone number if you kindly never want to hear from them again … they have a number, but it’ll never lead anywhere.
“Give my name, and I will come to the gate to greet you if I am home,” I assured him, and we parted ways.
Amidst the rhythmic monotony of day-to-day chores, the laundry, the to-do lists, you never know who you will meet on a random morning walk. I don’t know where this will lead, maybe nowhere, but it’s moments like these that make my life-walk all the more enjoyable. It reminds me that God is always on the move, connecting, restoring. And to quote Robert Frost, “I took the one [road] less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”