It was an unseasonably cold April morning, even by Michigan standards. While the sun should have been rising over the eastern Metro Detroit skyline, early morning commuters would instead be greeted by an early Spring snow storm, complete with gray cloud-cover and twelve inches of powder over the roadways. The perfect Monday; people would be in a bad mood today, especially for this part of town. The Livernois-Fort Street quadrant of southwest Detroit was home for some of the city’s poorest families, but also served as the port for the Canadian/ North American bridge crossing. Not exactly the best place for a homeless man to receive any decent handouts, but it would serve Jack’s purposes quite nicely.
He made a point never to claim the same spot two days in a row. For one, kids could be mean. Two: if word got out describing his activity, people might come searching for him on purpose. Never the same spot two days in a row. Today’s spot would be the northbound I-75/Livernois off-ramp. He’d noticed previously, that this location seemed to be a fairly busy intersection. It was the traffic light on the corner that made the location prime. Commuters would have to stop; he would be noticed.
As Jack slowly tracked across the snow covered pavement of the Livernois overpass, an old plastic milk crate in one hand, his keen eyes scanned the area for other derelicts and patrolling police squad-cars. None in site, he set the milk crate on the ground then produced a beaten-up cardboard poster from his full length weathered, dirty green polyester trench coat. The words, ‘HOMELESS. Please help. GOD bless you’ had been hand drawn over the face of the poster. Jack sat down on the milk crate and leaned against the corner stop light post. He pulled down on the brim of his old dingy brown fedora, flipped up the collar of his trench coat, drew his knees and ankles tight to keep warm, hunched forward slightly, and rested his gloved hands on top of his knees to comfortably display the poster to passers-by.
“Lord, I’m here. Use me as you see fit. Help me today” he prayed into the cold April air.
Before long, morning commuters began streaming past Jack. His first contact of the day, was a woman driving a sports car. As the intersection light turned red, she stopped, a cellphone planted neatly between her shoulder and ear, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a cup of coffee. Her blue eyes connected to Jack’s for a split second before trailing off someplace, purposely ignoring him.
“GOD bless and protect you young lady, and anyone driving beside you today” he whispered to himself.
Jack encountered at least three more commuters, as equally busy with their day-to-day lives, before the first real handout happened. Jack heard the call from GOD before he saw the van approaching. “THIS ONE” his spirit resounded. As he looked up the ramp, a blue minivan approached the stop light. Jack lowered his eyes to the ground.
“Good morning sir! Here you go” a young woman said as she leaned from the opened driver’s side window.
Jack slowly raised his head toward the driver. A slight smile lit across his bestubbled face. He could see the woman’s van was in need of minor repair work, but she dangled a folded five-dollar bill from her outstretched hand. Her humble eyes connected with his. As he walked toward the van, Jack reached into the deep left pocket of his trench coat and produced a crisp one hundred dollar bill. He crumpled the bill into the young woman’s hand as he clasped his hands around hers.
“GOD bless you sister. May the Lord smile on you today. Be blessed and a blessing.”
As he backed away from the dumb-founded woman staring at the crumpled bill in her hand, Jack raised a finger to his lips, in a shushing motion. He sat down on the crate, and resumed his original position. Throughout the day, Jack handed out a total of twenty-five hundred dollars to random passers-by. Some cried, some gasped, a few screamed, and many thanked GOD.
At the day’s end, the homeless man quick-stepped across the Livernois overpass, to a sedan parked around the corner. As he slid behind the driver’s seat, a cell phone rang. Pressing a center console button, Jack answered the call.
“Praise the Lord, Pastor Jack Smith speaking.”