The thin black man sitting alone at the green patio table outside of Whole Foods didn’t attract my attention at first. I was more interested in what Whole Foods contained in it than what it held outside of it. I was wrapped up in my own needs, concerned about providing for myself and my family, and not really thinking about serving someone else’s needs that day.
There was nothing ordinary about that man. He had on a white shirt and khaki shorts and sneakers. There was a heavy duffle bag slung on the table in front of him. I did notice, as I started to pass by, a very thick Bible sitting in front of him. That drew my attention. Jesus always does.
As I started to pass by, he spoke.
“Excuse me. Are you headed into the store?”
I was. It seemed an odd question.
He paused for a moment.
“What are you planning to get in there?”
Now that was definitely out of the ordinary.
“I’m not sure. Breakfast, most likely.”
The temptation to pass on and continue on my way was there but I also knew that Christ comes in many shapes throughout our day, and this might very well be my opportunity to learn from Him today.
“Would you mind, I am on a mission, and I haven’t eaten. Would you mind getting me breakfast? Whatever you’re having will be fine.”
I thought of the $24 dollars in my bank account. Spending on him today would mean not having enough for dinner tonight, or food for tomorrow. But, this was Jesus. And Jesus just asked me for food. I would be a fool to pass by the one who hungers and thirsts and then expect to gain entrance into the kingdom.
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
I went into the store and through the aisles, picking up what I could. The total was $11. Almost half of what was in my account.
I took it outside and stopped by his table. We talked for almost an hour as he ate his breakfast and I consumed my part.
His name was Ontario Hatter. As a young boy, he knew he was being called to serve the Lord. As a young man, he received a vision from God calling him to begin his ministry. Now, at age 31, he left behind his family and his home to go out on the streets of Dallas to serve others.
He knew he was being called to be a father to the children who had none, a son to the elderly who had no children to care for them. His other book was on Senior Care because, once his years of serving on the streets were done, he intended to go on to build a nursing home for the elderly.
We talked about the fact that so few know the truth about love, or recognize it when it comes to them, because they have no one in their lives to show them what love is, or how it should behave, or what to expect from it.
We also talked about Christ and the cross. Here we disagreed. He was sure that each man gets his own cross and no one else contributes to that burden. I know, and tried to explain, that each of us does receive our own cross, but it is made up of the wounds we bear from the sins committed against us – and no one, from the newly conceived to the one on the edge of death, is denied that gift because it is the truest test of your capacity for love. Can you love people while carrying the cross they put on your shoulders?
He told me that if someone was still carrying a cross from what was done to them, it was because they hadn’t forgiven yet. I told him my story. How I was abused by my stepfather as a child, but now 30 years later have a relationship such that when I needed a place to stay, he opened up his home to me.
This challenged his assumptions. He couldn’t understand how I could do that. He couldn’t understand how, though I admitted that the damage from my younger days still takes its toll and the wounds that were once there are covered over with scars that are an ever-present reminder of what happened to me, I could live in the same house and not feel traumatized.
“Forgiveness. He’s not the same man he was, nor am I the same child.”
Our conversation was cut short. I had an appointment to keep. But if you’re interested in learning more about Ontario or would like to partner with him in his ministry, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org