This morning we got our first coating of snow. Nothing really bad, but by the time I cleaned off the cars - my wife's back has been bothering her, so I didn't want her to do her own car - I realized I would be too late for the 6:25 morning Mass at a church on my way to work.
I decided instead to spend a few minutes at my own church's perpetual adoration chapel.
When I got to the church, the parking lot had not been plowed. I had to circle the long way to get in because I was afraid I might miss the driveway near the chapel and drive on the lawn.
The chapel was dark. Sadly, although it is open 24 hours, it is often empty of anyone offering prayers.
When I walked in, I spotted a man sprawled across the chairs, obviously sleeping. He immediately sat up and mumbled something about waiting for McDonald's to open (there's a McDonald's restaurant just down the road).
I figured he was a lost soul, maybe a homeless man, who had sought a warm place out of the snow. He continued to sit there.
I sat and said a few prayers. But I also kept thinking about him. He didn't seem dangerous, but you never know. Did he have a place to go? I thought McDonald's was already open to serve the morning commuters. Should I offer him a ride as I was going that way? Would that be a dangerous thing to do? Might he have a weapon?
Then I wondered what Francis would do. Was this Jesus sitting there?
After about 15 minutes I had to leave. I asked him what time McDonald's opened. He said 6. I told him it was already 6:45, and asked if he would like a ride.
He said yeah. We got in my car. He started telling me a story about his car being hit and towed by a company on the other side of town. I asked why he ended up in my neck of the woods then; he just continued his spiel. He said he lived in a town in the next county and hadn't been able to get in touch with any friends from there to come and pick him up.
Having volunteered in homeless shelters and done stories on street people, I waited for the other shoe to drop.
Sure enough, as soon as we got to the McDonald's he asked if I had any money to spare. I said I never gave money - I knew too often it went for drugs and alcohol - but I offered to go in and buy him a cup of coffee to warm up.
As we walked in, another fellow with the look of a street person greeted him familiarly. I was even more convinced that he was just scamming. I bought him some coffee and left.
As I drove away I thought that perhaps I should have gotten him something to eat, too. Francis would have. I felt guilty about judging him. Even if he was scamming me, he probably could have used some food.
I didn't turn around. I had a long way to go to get to work.
I have a long way to go when it comes to being a Franciscan as well.
Pax et bonum