My name is Ernie. I have lived on the streets for 20 years. It has been so long sometimes I forget what I used to do, who I used to be, where I used to live. I have no family left after they all have disowned me or died. I am sixty-something years old-I am not sure when my birthday is and I don’t want to remember. My only possession in the world is my bicycle that I cannot ride because of my bad leg. Oh yeah, I also have my backpack and my cane. It’s pretty rough out here. There is no shelter from the cold, and when someone wants my spot, I have to give it to them because I don’t want beat up no more. I’ve been beaten, shot, robbed(who’d want anything I’ve got, anyways?), thrown in jail, set on fire, you name it, I’ve been there.
I watch as people go by, glaring at me with mean looking eyes, probably wishing I wasn’t here. Sometimes I hear “go to work, you bum” or “get a job” from some kids, but it’s okay, they don’t know my story. Please don’t be mad at them, they have nice lives. Nice is a funny word to say, nice house, nice cars, nice clothes, nice family, nice hot meal. I have none of this. Once in a while some nice people come by and feed us and have church revivals, and here I met a man that fixed my cane. He is the best guy I have met in a long time. He took the time to listen to me and actually cares for me…said I matter to him and to God. He said he used to drink like I do, but God healed him of that. I wonder why God ain’t healed me yet. It seems like every little bit of money I get always gets spent at the liquor store. I sometimes go weeks without any food but the wine warms me and I don’t feel the rest.
I have a watch, but it’s broke. Been that way since I got thrown down the stairs at this old abandoned house. Don’t matter, I don’t care what time it is, I just keep the watch-reminds me of my family-my daughter got it for me a long time ago. If I do matter to God, I wish he’d show me, because I don’t know how much more I can handle. It gets cold at night and my bones sure hurt. Sure would be nice to get a bath, and some new clothes. Maybe even a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. What do I got to be thankful for? Can’t think of much…..maybe my bicycle.
Someone said why don’t you go to a shelter? Well, they are all full-can’t get there in time with my bum leg so I quit trying. Too many homeless people out here you know. Maybe someone could donate one of these old vacant buildings so we could keep warm this winter. I feel lonely, sad, and helpless. What can I do? Just keep on keeping on, I guess….
-----Ernie’s story is told by Jeff Smith, who while helping at a homeless revival several years ago, met Ernie and fixed his cane with a dab of super glue. See, you can make a difference by just helping where you are led to help. Don’t ignore God’s Spirit when He asks you to help out. You may think that giving money or time is a huge sacrifice, but it is not. The more we turn away from these folks, the farther away they are in our hearts. But, they are still there, needing help, hope, and the knowledge that they do matter to God.