Wasn't Expecting This


The man in the car coasted down the exit ramp and stopped at the red light, glancing absentmindedly to his left. And there he was. A man with a sign.

And the sign said,

Wasn’t expecting this...

The man with the sign had no cup for change, and he wasn’t walking the stretch, leaning down to make eye contact with the drivers, hoping that eye contact=money.  It struck the man in the car that this could actually be the man's first day homeless — that’s how fresh the pain and the embarrassment glowed in the eyes that lifted and looked back at him.

The man with the sign was a 20-something, short blonde hair and glasses. He wasn’t dirty or intimidating or threatening. He was just … devastated. And the man in the car could FEEL it.

The man in the car was a 20-something too. And as he looked at the man, his mind began to race as he thought about what it would be like to be the man with the sign. He thought too about how easily one calamitous curve ball in his own life could leave him a man devastated, a man holding a sign saying

Wasn’t expecting this...

Who the hell expects to be homeless, he thought.

He didn’t have much – his own car was five years old, and he was living paycheck-to-paycheck -- but he had a five-dollar bill, so he rolled down his window and passed it to the man with the sign. The man’s eyes lit up, and he said, “Thank you."

“Hang in there, Brother," said the man in the car to the man with the sign. "Keep your head up."

The light turned green, and the other drivers (Houston drivers are notoriously impatient) began to blare their horns, so the man in the car reluctantly drove away -- and the further away the car moved from the man with the sign, the more brightly the image of his face -- and the way his eyes lit up -- burned in the mind of the man with the car.


Wasn't expecting this...

There are people in our lives dealing with things they did not expect. And not just easy-for-us-to-see events like car accidents and hurricanes.

That woman in the grocery store, moving through the cereal aisle in her yoga pants and flipflops?  She was recently diagnosed with cancer. She wasn’t expecting this.

The broad-shouldered, full-bearded man yanking the six-pack out of the cooler in the gas station? He was laid off today. He wasn’t expecting this.

That teen struggling with addiction? (And failing.) Did her mother -- on that long-ago day when she watched her curly-haired toddler wobble through the family room -- did she expect to see this day?

And other things too.

A DECADE of struggle with anxiety and depression? He wasn’t expecting that.

A partner no longer in love with her? She wasn't expecting that. At. All.

Fueled by a dream, a mission, a vision and now filled with The Great Emptiness? She Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

I could go on, but I don't have to, do I?

Wasn't Expecting This...

The signs people hold are not always in their hands. Some people hang their signs on the inside, around aching hearts – and those signs you can only see if you SLOW DOWN and LOOK.

Look with your heart and look at their eyes.

When we see the signs, what shall we do? What shall we do for the people with the ‘Wasn’t expecting this” signs hanging around their hearts?

Why, we shall do what the young man in the car did. We will reach out.

We will reach out, as best we can, with whatever resources we have.

So reach out today.

Reach out with whatever you’ve got. And remember, sometimes small things are Big Things to people who are struggling.

Reach out today.

FLIP the SCRIPT. Let those who encounter us say, “Wow. She was so kind. I wasn’t expecting this.”

Reach out today.

Do it for the man with the sign. Do it for the man in the car. Do it for the person who stands before you. Do. It.

And everyone we reach out to -- we will be reaching out in part because of the man with the sign and the man in the car.

WE will be the ripples of their encounter.

I think they’d both like that.

And it will be Extra Beautiful because as you know

they aren’t expecting this.