I shared a parking space in my office parking lot with a homeless man named Rick. Space #19 was where I was assigned to park and it just so happened that it also served as Rick's bedroom. I didn't know that Rick slept in my parking space until I came to work early one morning and woke him up.
Rick needed some food and I had a McDonald's Gift Certificate worth $5 that I gave him. We would talk every night after work about the things he saw during the day and I shared with him about the accounting issues I was dealing with at work. Neither of us really understood what the other was actually experiencing, but we empathized with each other as friends do.
It was a cold winter, so one morning I grabbed my sleeping bag on the way out of the house and asked Rick if he thought he could use it to stay warm. He wanted to be sure this wasn't charity, and I assured him that I loaned this sleeping bag to my friends when they needed it for camping or guests sleeping over.
He took the bag.
One night I attended a concert after work and left my car in the parking lot while I attended the show. On the way back from the concert I found a $10 bill on the sidewalk and put it in my pocket. As I returned to my car Rick ran up to me and exclaimed, "They were here!" I asked him who "they" were and he informed me that a group of people were breaking into cars in the lot that night. He was proud to inform me that he stopped them from breaking into my car.
I asked him if I could pay him for that service and handed him that $10 bill. A couple of weeks went by and I didn't see Rick at all. Then one night after work Rick was sitting on my bumper with a big smile on his face. He explained that he used the $10 bill I gave him to take MARTA to get his paperwork that made him eligible for disability and got him into a group home. He was able to receive medical care and new clothes and job training at this new home.
He gave me a big hug in the parking lot, thanked me for saving his life, and walked down 10th street. That was the last time I ever saw Rick.
Growing up in church I head all of the stories about giving and tithing, but my interaction with Rick reminded me that the amount of my generosity is not as important as my willingness to be generous. Just as God can feed a multitude with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he saved Rick with a McDonalds Gift Card, an old sleeping bag, and a $10 bill that I found on the street.