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Me & Andrew

As part of a Lenten discipline, I took on the task of feeding a homeless man we would see each day on the D.C side of the 14th Street Bridge.  Back when I regularly drove Chrissie in to work, this guy would be camped out at the first traffic light in the city, looking fore-lorn and emaciated, wearing shabby and ripped clothing, and collecting coins and bucks as he handed out copies of the Washington Post.  He was not a registered street vendor for the paper - I always thought it a form of outreach by the Post - they could increase their distribution and readership while allowing this down-trodden individual to pocket his collection for his own purposes.  A friend of ours said, "That's great, but what happens when Easter comes?  He's screwed!".  I suggested seven weeks might be long enough to develop a practice of regular feeding.  Well, we have provided for Andrew several years now. 

Many times, we would approach the light while it was still green  - I'd roll down my driver-side window, perch a bag holding sandwiches, bags of chips, some cookies, and a few juice boxes and/or bottles of water on the window's edge - and hand it off to him as we rolled into the city.  I would say a quick "God bless you".  Always very appreciative, he would say, "Peace, Shalom" back to us.  If the commute was such that we stopped at or near the traffic signal, whether we were the first car or several cars back from the front, he was see the bag and make his way back to us.  With each hand-off was the brief exchange of "God bless you" and "Peace, Shalom".  

Finally, we met.  As I extended my hand, saying "Hi, I'm David and this is Chrissie", we shook hands and he said, "Hi, I'm Andrew".  Over time, we learned that Andrew was a veteran of the Vietnam War who had fallen on hard times.  He was pretty up front about his drug addiction issues.  Even if he didn't tell us, we could tell some times when he was out of it, buzzing from something.  He said early on it would be easier if we would just give money - I said we could offer him food, but that we would not give him money.  After a few bags of ham and cheese sandwiches, he was confident enough to say he didn't eat the meat and that cheese-only sandwiches would be great.  We imagine the some of the food we gave was used as barter for other things.  When we asked and he would tell us, we also gave him hand warmers gloves, a pair of jeans, some long johns, a jacket, a sleeping bag, and aspirin and cough drops.  

When Chrissie got her own parking pass and started driving in herself,  I would only hear about Andrew.  There began to be long periods of time when Andrew wouldn't be there, so the food prepared for him would spoil.  Chrissie has actually taken over the mantle of providing something for Andrew if she should happen to see him.  Nothing fancy, just something offered with care and love.  

Today, I drove Chrissie to work, and Andrew was there.  Still shabby and maybe scary to some, it was Andrew as I remembered him.  He was pretty animated as we chatted quickly about the high winds whipping through the area.  Chrissie remarked as we drove away, "He's always happy to see you.  I rarely get that much from him".  I admit I'd lost track of Andrew, but he's now back on my prayer list.  I am always thankful for the many blessings I have in my own life.  I don't know how people persevere and survive living on the streets.  I guess when you have little, there is little to miss.  But Andrew is always thankful for whatever he has.  I know God has and will continue to care for him.  We will continue to feed him as best we can.  Peace, Andrew.  Shalom.    


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 16th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
Nice. Great story, great ministry, great writing. Love from Connie in WY
Apr. 23rd, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
As my commute echoes the one you describe I see Andrew nearly every day. I wonder about him and have a twinge of concern when he's not there, but unlike you, I have never gone the second mile to learn more, to help, to become connected.
Bless you for what you and Chrissie do.
Anne C.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )