Sixteen Dollars

Pop Quiz:
When God asks me to do something strange, I…
A. Hurry to get it done.
B. Think on it for a while, convince myself He is trustworthy, and then get started.
C. Think about it, realize how crazy it is, forget about it, and move on with life.
D. Ignore it completely.

Back in 2020, I believe God asked me to do something that seemed strange. Here’s what happened…

On Tuesday, May 5, I took two photos of a “retro shelving unit” that my landlady no longer wanted.

On Thursday, I posted the photos to an online marketplace, asking $31. That day, I received a full price offer from a woman promising to pick them up the next day and we set a time for her to pick them up.

Later that night, as I was lying in bed, I began thinking about a conversation I had had previously with another friend about the large number of homeless people in Portland, OR. While lying there, I realized that Jesus encouraged his followers to pay special attention to and be generous with people who could not repay them. At that moment, I had a series of thoughts that went something like this:
* I have a membership to a big box store that sells hot dogs.
* A hot dog and drink combo there costs $1.50.
* If I had $15, I could buy 10 hot dogs, drive around looking for homeless people, and give them the food, if they wanted it.

The thought quickly passed and I was on to other ideas.

The next morning, I woke up and began working on projects around the house. A few hours later, the lady came to pickup the shelves. We stood in the street for about an hour talking about COVID-19, aliens, and the afterlife. She paid me $31 in cash went on her way. I went back inside and gave the money to my landlady. When I turned to walk away, she stopped me and said, “whenever one of my sons sells something for me, I like to let them keep half of the earnings.” Despite my protests, she counted out $16 (rounding up) and gave it to me. I thanked her and headed back to my room.

Sixteen dollars…

Once back in my room, I immediately remembered the thought I had had the night before. The one about being able to buy 10 hot dogs if I had $15. I now had $16 in my hand. Coincidence? I don’t think so. But was that thought the night before from God or from me? Would I act on it? Would I act on it now? Ugh.

Despite not having anything pressing to work on, and having the (almost) exact amount of money I needed to complete my idea, I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t be a reasonable thing to do. My though process went something like this:
* First, the big box store requires people to wear masks when they enter. I don’t like wearing masks.
* Second, it seems odd to order 10 hot dogs.
* Third, even with 10 hot dogs in my possession, how would I be able to find people to give them to? There is no guarantee.
* Fourth, what would I do with leftover hot dogs?
* Fifth… you get the idea.

So, what did I do? I begrudgingly got my keys, told my landlady that I needed to go out for a while, and headed to the store. (There have been times when I have ignored promptings like this and they didn’t leave me feeling satisfied at all.) While on the way to the store, I drove past an area where some old RV’s were parked (unlawfully) and noted the location. I saw a man selling used tools by the side of the road. (I wonder if he is hungry?) I saw a guy looking down and out sitting in the shade by the side of the road. It seemed like opportunities abounded.

When I arrived at the store, I ordered 10 hot dogs, asked for ketchup and mustard on the side, and, since the soda fountains were off limits due to COVID regulations, received 10 cans of soda. That is so much better than trying to carry 10 cups of soda!

Leaving the store, I made my way back toward the “down and out” guy. He was still there, so I stopped near him, rolled my window down, got his attention, and asked if he was hungry. “No,” he told me, “I just ate two subway sandwiches… but I know a few people who might be. I live in a homeless camp just down the road. If you could take me there, I could show you where the others are.” “Hop in,” I said.

We turned around and headed back toward his camp. His name was Conrad and he had served in the army for 4 years. He told me that he tried getting odd jobs, like helping people move, but otherwise, lived off a stipend from the government.

We arrived at his camp and he told me where to park on the street. I parked in front of a car with two men in it. Across the street, a man and woman were working on their SUV. Conrad invited these 4 over, telling them I had food, and then spread the word to a few others. The two men each took a hot dog and drink, a woman named Sally accepted food, another man took two, one for himself and one for his girlfriend. The man working on his SUV came across and I gave him one and told him I would bring one to his wife, who was on crutches. His name was Jamie and hers was Amber. Jamie was a joy to meet: He was born and raised in the South, enjoys working with his hands, and had a very kind spirit. He has done construction and knows how to fix cars. He does odd jobs now and is trying to save up enough to settle down somewhere. He thanked me for coming by, telling me, “it’s people like you that encourage me to keep going.” I told him that I had a few more hot dogs to give out and asked if he knew of others who lived nearby. He pointed me down a path and told me, “Phyllis lives down there and so does Mike and his girlfriend.” Before we parted, I asked if he owned a Bible. “Oh, yes,” he said, “I have the good book.”

I headed off down the path and met Phyllis. She lived along the side of a river beneath a large tarp. She was hungry and took the food and drink I offered. I headed further down the path, probably almost a quarter mile, before finding Mike’s camp. I called out a few times to see if anyone was home and a man came out. He had apparently been cleaning a motor of some kind because his hands were covered in grease. (Almost everyone I met that day had very dirty hands.) I told him I had food and he looked very grateful. I asked if anyone else was there and he told me his girlfriend was in the back. I gave him the last two hot dogs and sodas! When I introduced myself, he told me his name was Michael. After a short interaction, I walked back to my car filled with joy because not only had God provided me with $15 (actually, $16) but also with 10 hungry people to give food to. My worries about having leftovers went away when I realized that I had been provided with the perfect amount for the needs I was to encounter that day.

But that’s not all…

From Conrad’s camp, I drove to the local grocery store to get some ingredients for hamburger night (Friday nights where I lived was “hamburger night”). After I payed for my items, I realized that I still had $1 leftover from the $16 I was originally given. Behind me in line was a young mother and a girl about 10 years old. The girl was looking longingly at the candy on display near the cashier, so I turned to the mom and asked if I could buy a candy for the girl. She looked at me and said, “of course. That’s so nice!” So, I gave the girl the dollar, collected my things and headed home.

With a little dream, $16, and a few nudges from the Holy Spirit, I was able to make a dozen friends, feed 10 people, and satisfy a sweet tooth.

I was blessed because I responded (albeit somewhat grudgingly) to the Lord’s instructions. If He asks you to do something that doesn’t make sense, I have a hunch He will provide what you need for your endeavor and might even allow you to enjoy some of the blessing!

“When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Jesus (Luke 14:12b-14)

P.S. As I wrote this, I was convicted by the thought that, if I share this, I will be “practicing my righteousness in front of others” (Matthew 6:1). I’m not sure what to do with that. I hope you will excuse me if you think any of this is self exalting. That was not my intention.

9 Comments

  1. Wills, I love “hearing” you share stories like this! I know you well enough to believe you had no intention of exalting yourself. Rather, you exalted the Lord by giving testimony to His faithfulness to provide what is needed in order to follow His promptings. I believe you shared this because you find JOY IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD, you are overflowing with that joy, and you desire to bless others. I am blessed and encouraged by your example of responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I relate to your dilemma of wondering if ideas like that are from God or from us. Sometimes, as you described, we do not know for sure until after we have followed through with the actions the Lord instructs us to do. I thank the Lord for the incredible ways He works in and through His followers when we are Faithful, Available, and Teachable. Keep on obeying God as you continue on your journey through this life. I miss you. ~ Kim Alfeche

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  2. God bless you Wills for your following the urging of the Holy Spirit. I remember my dear wife when she was delivering “hard copy” medical reports to her client Dr. Clifford, down in Encinitas, would at least once a week bake cookies and give them to the homeless camps along her route. She became “the cookie lady”. “God is not unmindful to remember your labor of love”. I often remind myself of Acts 20 where the apostle Paul reminds those at Ephesus: “remember the words of the Lord Jesus when He said it is more blessed to give than receive”….we don’t see those words recorded per see, because His whole life proved it.

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  3. Thanks Wills for sharing this story. It directly addresses a fear I have of dealing with homeless people. I too often listen to the voice that talks me out of doing something like this.

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    1. I often face similar fears. This experience was so powerful to me because I felt such strong conviction that I should proceed, despite the hesitation. May the Lord give you the wisdom and conviction to serve the people you meet in a way that is honoring to him, despite their other, often complex, issues.

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  4. I hope you are typing out your many God stories … saving them in a special file … so one day you can publish a book, much like Bob Goff’s encouraging book “Love Does”. Please pass these evidences of Him “speaking”, directing you, on to many more people than your Facebook friends, etc., via a book.

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