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When the Homeless Guy Prayed for Me

Meeting a homeless man on the subway results in an unexpected and cherished prayer for all.

When a homeless guy prayed for me on the subway
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When I give a buck or an energy bar or something else to eat from my briefcase to a homeless person I meet on the subway or on the streets, I always ask for their name. I figure that’s the important thing. The name of some I can pray for. But I don’t usually expect a prayer in return.

The other day I was sitting on the subway and this guy plopped down next to me, digging one-dollar bills out of one pocket and putting them in another. It was kind of irritating me so I figured if I talked to him, I’d find it less irritating.

“That’s a lot of money,” I said for an opener. “Where’d you get it all?”

“Asking for it,” he said. “I’m trying to put together thirty-five bucks to pay for a room for tonight. I’m still a couple bucks short.” Ah, I thought, so there’s the sales pitch.

“Where do you find a room for only thirty-five bucks?” I asked. He described a place downtown where he and a couple of his friends pooled their resources to get a room for the night. He was heading uptown to find one of his friends to see how much they had.

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There was, as usual, a cynical side to myself that assumed this was just part of his spiel, another way to get more money out of people like me, but I wondered, would it really hurt anything if I just took him at face value? “Judge not,” Jesus said.

“What do you tell people when you ask for money?” I asked.

“I tell them the truth. That’s the best approach. I say I need money for food. Or I need money for a place to stay. Or that I need clothes.” He pointed to the new pair of jeans he was wearing and the sweater he had on. “Someone gave me these.” He had additional clothes in the bag he was carrying.

My stop was coming up. “I need to get off,” I said. “I’m going to church for a choir rehearsal. But you should come by our church on Saturday mornings. We have a good soup kitchen. Get a free meal. 99th and Amsterdam. What’s your name?” I asked.

“Tom,” he said.

“I’m Rick.”

“Rick,” he said. “Let me pray for you.” And then right there on the subway train as it was hurtling into the 96th St. station, he prayed for me and the rest of the people on the train. He thanked God for all that God had given him and asked God to be with me for the rest of the evening. “Amen” we both said.

“Thanks,” I said, getting off the train. “Take care…Tom.”

“Take care, Rick.” I gave him a buck. Would he use it for that $35 room he was hoping to get for the night or for something to drink or some other nefarious purpose? Who knew? But why not take him at his word? He prayed for me. I could pray for him. By name. Tom.

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