I met Bill a couple of years ago. I normally pick up day old bread from the bakery nearby twice a week and I felt God “nudge” me to stop by and talk to Bill. My response was no, I am in a hurry, and I would have to go out of my way to park my truck so I could walk over and talk to him. Finally I gave in and carried a couple of loaves of bread over to him and started a conversation with Bill. It was a start of a very interesting but worthwhile adventure of getting to know Bill. I would normally stop by twice a week as I picked up bread. I had no agenda but to be in the moment and see where Bill was or what his needs were. Sometimes it was just listening, sometimes it was challenging his thoughts, sometimes it was buying him socks, boots, rain gear, etc. (By the way, I did not have any success at challenging his thoughts!)
I always wondered why I was stopping by. Was it for him? Was it for me? I never really knew and I probably won’t ever know. I now believe that all of our relationships, our chance meetings with people, and our encounters no matter how small, have significant value. Meeting Bill challenged me to think differently about the homeless and the less fortunate. I now volunteer weekly at a homeless church that feeds people both spiritually and physically. The pastor’s goal is to show all people that God loves them.
Bill and I had many spiritual discussions. Some of were right on. Some were a little different. But one thing for certain was that Bill was as passionate about Jesus and letting everyone know that. I was disappointed when I found out he had a restraining order from standing on his corner! How silly that was. That is when things changed for Bill. He no longer has his “place”. It was harder for me to locate where he was. One day I found him down the street from the corner and as I was talking to him, the police showed up. I guess he had just gotten into an argument with a guy who said he pushed him. Bill was getting upset and I tried to get him to calm down and go with the police. He did. I hope that I had some impact on him that day.
I had not seen Bill for a long time when I finally saw him a week before he passed away. It was a quick encounter but he said that the Lord was challenging him to show Mercy. Almost in tears he said it was very hard for him to do that. I told him to keep listening to Him and keep trying! I now know that the Lord is showing Mercy and Grace on Bill.
The owner of the Bakery is a good friend of mine and he called to tell me the news of Bill’s passing. All of his employees were very sad when they heard of this. Bill had a big impact on all of them. He was always stopping by over the years for bread and for cardboard to make his signs. He made lots of friends there.
You always wonder if people like Bill had many friends. Going by the makeshift memorial on his “corner” initially stunned me with the outpouring of thoughts and love. But I guess I should not have been surprised. Bill has touched so many people over the years. It kind of gives you hope for mankind!
I miss Bill. I miss his smile. I miss his kind words. I miss his signs of hope. I know many that pass by his memorial will miss him also. But I know for sure he is in a much better place than he ever was here on Earth!