A Lesson in Forgiveness

On Saturday, my 13-year-old car was making some strange noises, so me and my husband Phil put our dog Angel in the car and went for a ride to get some frozen custard. Phil figured out the car’s problem quickly, making it easier to enjoy our treat.

On our way back to the car we were stopped by a gentleman who asked us what kind of dog Angel was. The man appeared to be in his late sixties, maybe early seventies, but it was hard to pinpoint because he looked weathered from a possibly hard-working life.

Jim, as he later introduced himself, told us of how he had come from Indianapolis after attending his brother’s funeral, and was driving his old car back to Minnesota. He also told us of how he never believed in owning credit cards, but due to his unexpected trip purchased two $500 gift cards to use for his hotel and meals.

Jim somehow ended up with the empty card instead of the card with a remaining balance. This left him in a desperate position – he had no money for food or gas to get him back home to Minnesota.

We told Jim to meet us at the gas station down the street and we would put a tank of gas in his car. He thanked us and asked for an address in order to repay us for our kindness, but we told him not to worry about it. He offered to send a handmade birdhouse and I agreed that would be nice. Phil wrote down our address in the back of a paperback Jim had in the car.

It wasn’t long before a police officer approached me and asked if everything was okay. He explained that someone at Culver’s had called about Jim, who had supposedly been asking people for money. I told him the story Jim had given us and he said he would check things out.

Phil had just finished pumping $41.00 worth of gas into the car when the policeman began asking Jim questions. The officer told us we could be on our way, so we wished Jim well and left.

Something didn’t feel right to me and I drove around the block back to the gas station where a second police officer had arrived. I pulled up to the officer that had originally questioned me because I wanted to make sure he understood that Jim had never asked us for money, and that we volunteered to put gas in his car.

Jim admitted to the police that everything he told us was a lie. We also learned that he was picked up in March for panhandling at another local restaurant. I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach, but I told the officer we weren’t interested in pressing charges and that I would like the piece of paper returned that had our name and address on it.

As we pulled away, I told “Jim” we were not going to press charges and that we would pray for him. He thanked us. It was then I noticed the license plates on his car were from Colorado.

We will never know if anything “Jim” told us was true, but he was obviously in need of something. Divine intervention? A kind soul? I don’t believe a person would panhandle if they didn’t really need to, but I hope through God he will find his way. There was no question about forgiving him – it was the only thing to do.

Song for the day:  “Hold Us Together” by Matt Maher

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