Dinner for Wiley


While standing in a farmer’s market store this week, my daughter Faith – nearly 5 years old – sounded out the phrase “fresh eggs” on her own. It was a small moment of pride as a father: my daughter is becoming literate. (Can there be much greater joy for a dad whose job involves words all day?)

But it was the sign she couldn’t read this week that eventually stirred the most joy in my soul.

Nearing the end of a long, hot day at the zoo, I decide to take my daughters to the toy store and reward them for an unprecedented day of obedience in public. Heeding a parent’s voice for an entire day – every time – is an act to celebrate, particularly when the kids are ages 3 and 4.

While I wait for the traffic light to turn green, Faith looks out the window and asks the piercing question, “Daddy, what does that man’s sign say?”

I know which man she is talking about. He is six feet away from us and is holding up a gut-wrenching sign:

Please help a vet. Jobless. Homeless. Hungry. God Bless.

The light changes and I ease onto the accelerator while relaying the answer to her question and explaining what it means.

“He doesn’t have a job?” my daughter asks.

“That’s what his sign says.”

“Well, Daddy, you can give him your job.”

I laugh. Nervously.

“You can’t just give someone your job, Faith. It’s not that easy. And if I did, what would I do?”

“You could both do the job – then he could buy a house.”

If life were only that simple. If only Faith was that simple minded. I know what is coming next.

“It doesn’t work like that, Faith.”

“He can stay with us.”

Again, I wish it were that easy. But it’s not. Juggling being a protector of your children with their wide-open hearts make for challenging conversations.

I explain that while it’s a great idea, we’re not at a place to take someone in, especially someone we know nothing about.

By this point, I’m wrestling with all kinds of issues, heart issues. I want to help, but why don’t I? And before I can come to any comfortable resolution in my own mind, the little red-headed firecracker spouts off another suggestion, undaunted.

“Can we get him something to eat?” she asks.

That we can do. We drive to the nearest fast food joint, purchase a hearty meal and drive back across the street to deliver it to the man. I thought it was best that this unsuspecting guy get a full dose of the love coming from two half-pint girls with 10-gallon hearts. I also wanted the girls to realize that Christ-like charity isn’t about doing something to make a problem go away – it’s about reaching out and being willing to stand with someone in the midst of their most desperate moments in life. So we park and begin walking up the sidewalk toward the man standing at the corner.

I look back at the two girls clamoring behind me – Faith clinging to the giant soft drink and Julia clutching the bag of food, both going to help a man in need of more than we could give him. It is pure innocence.

Moments later, we meet Wiley. He has multiple-sclerosis and a cane – but a grin that won’t go away.

He looks at me and says, “You have your hands full with those heart breakers.”

Before Wiley knows it, he has his hands full with a dinner my daughter had just persuaded me to buy for him.

“So you don’t have a house?” Faith asks.

Wiley pauses, shifting uncomfortably.

“No. No, I don’t.”

I hold my breath. Is Faith going to ask him to stay with us? I don’t know what she’s going to say next. But she doesn’t say anything. She just looks up at him and grins.

After a few moments of surface conversation, I ask Wiley if we can pray for him before we leave. And I ask the perpetrator of this encounter to pray. Never shy about praying in public or otherwise, Faith agrees.

“Dear God,” Faith begins, “thank you for Mr. Wiley. Will you give him a house and that when he goes into it, it will be filled with food? In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

It was that simple of a prayer, yet one that makes me tear up. Nothing like the innocence of a child’s prayer to dust off the cobwebs of a rusty heart. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke about child-like faith.

Wiley was the real winner on Saturday – he had a full heart and a full stomach. But I was more than willing to settle for the former, thanks to a young girl who is as relentless as she is loving.

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