The Parking Attendant, Jim Gaffigan, & A Homeless Man

The Parking Attendant, Jim Gaffigan, & A Homeless Man

About a year ago a small group of us went to see our favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan in Dallas, TX. It was me, my wife Abby, our friends Wes and Nichola, and our gal-pal Heather. All I expected out of the trip was to laugh so hard our cheeks hurt, have a good dinner, and get up the next day to come home. As it turned out, there were a couple other things that would happen. The events that followed would forever shape my feelings about praying with strangers and way I treat the homeless.

The Parking Attendant Story

When we pulled up to the venue where Jim Gaffigan would be performing, there were cones and parking attendants directing us to where we needed to park. When it was our turn to pull up and pay, a very bored looking woman was there to take my money. When I put the window down, the lady told me how much to pay. She didn’t seem to be in the best of moods as she counted out our change. I figured why not be friendly and ask her how her day was going and if she enjoyed her job? She didn’t say much, but she did smile. She said her job was ok and that she was mostly glad it wasn’t too hot. We made a bit of small talk and she sent us on our way with our parking pass. Then, a voice from the back seat says, “That was your opportunity to pray with her!”

The voice from the back belonged to our dear friend, hard core evangelist, and amazing prayer warrior, Nichola. Let me tell you a little known fact about Nichola. She never, and I mean NEVER misses an opportunity to share some Jesus and/or pray with anyone and everyone. I am almost jealous of her boldness. Me? I am not one to pray in public. Especially not in front of strangers. Honestly, it’s just not how I evangelize. You can say I am making excuses, but I have never felt praying is my gift. I don’t feel bad about it, because I feel like just being kind and striking up a conversation is my gift. My lifelong bouts with shyness and social anxiety have made just saying hello hard for me for. I have had to force myself to practice being friendly and social.

My point being… I am proud to know people like Nichola and her husband, Wes. I appreciate their ability to stop and pray out loud with anyone, anytime. It’s a unique gift that not every Christian possesses. Maybe I’ll work on that some day, or maybe I’ll never feel the need to. Sometimes I think maybe just a smile and a little conversation is all you need to show the face of Christ.Who knows? Maybe I should practice all of it.

Seeing Jim Gaffigan

As always, Jim way fantastic. I know his tickets can be expensive, but they are so worth it. My only advice is not to drink anything before you see him. Go to the bathroom before you sit down, because you might just pee your pants. We have seen him twice now, and I am sure we will see him again. My wife and I don’t get a lot of date night opportunities. So when Jim comes to town, we make an event out of it.

The Homeless Guy Story

The next day after seeing Jim Gafigan, we dropped Abby off at the airport then went on to the #2 rated BBQ restaurant in Texas. It’s called Pecan Lodge and it is located in downtown Dallas. This area had several homeless people walking around, asking for help, and hanging out on the side-walks. After finding a parking spot, we had about a 3 block walk to the restaurant. On the way, we came across a homeless man that asked for money. He was hard to understand and seemed a little under the influence. We walked right by him, completely ignoring his existence. We didn’t even say no. We just walked on by. (Shameful)

Another thought: Why was I so eager to be friendly to the lady above, but not this guy?

Once we got to Pecan Lodge, there was a line out the door and into the street. We had a good time in line taking pictures and just enjoying each other’s company. All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we treated the homeless man. I felt ashamed throughout lunch. Here we are, willing to pay over $75 for lunch, yet we treated this guy like dirt. (I don’t feel bad about enjoying a nice meal, by the way.) I don’t know his situation or how he got there. We judged him purely on his exterior. He might have gotten addicted to pain pills after breaking his leg saving orphans from a fire. It doesn’t matter. You know who would have loved to help this guy? My daughter. My sweet innocent loving compassionate little girl. I sat there wishing I could be more like her. Not to mention, I  know she would have questioned me for my actions. Then she would have insisted that we go back and help him.

When we got up to leave, I had a plan. I rolled up a small amount of money and had it ready in my pocket, just in case we passed him on the way back. Wouldn’t you know it? He was standing in front of us again. This time I stopped to talked to him. I didn’t know what to say. This whole situation was a first for me. I just asked his name and how the weather was treating him. I guess He told me his name, but I couldn’t understand him. I took the money out of my pocket and handed it to him. I made sure to grab his arm with my other hand and shake his hand when I gave him the money. “God bless you,” was the next thing he said. I understood that clearly, because I am sure it is something he said all the time when people helped him. I said the same thing back, and we walked on. I am not sure what meant more to him. $5 or the human contact, even if our conversation was short. Heck, he might not have cared either way.

It was that moment that I decided to never ignore another homeless person. Never treat them like they are less than me. I would do better the next time. Talk to them, offer a hug, maybe even buy them something to eat and actually stay with them while they ate. Gosh, I mean, is there anything better than a little company?  Loneliness has to be worse part about homelessness. Ever since this experience, I have tried to do a little more each time with each new encounter. Believe it or not, sometimes kindness takes a little practice. It comes so natural to my wife and daughter, just like public prayer comes to my friends. But for some of us Christians, it’s something we have to work at.

So, after this trip, I had a lot to think and pray about. I had new skills to practice. If anything, God revealed to me that there are new ways to share my faith. I considered it a blessing to have God challenge me in such a way. I’ll never forget that trip, and just so you know, I have gotten better at those things. Practice makes perfect. It’s not just for musicians and athletes.

10 comments

  1. To allay concerns about giving money to the homeless, one can give out gift cards from a local grocery store or restaurant. Also, keeping basic food items in your car can be handy (I keep Clif Bars with me and will give those to people at intersections).

  2. I can understand wanting to help the homeless, but I don’t understand giving money flat-out to a guy who appeared to have been drinking. How did he get the alcohol in the first place? He probably was able to keep drinking because of people giving him money. Why not donate to a shelter or a soup kitchen instead?

    • That moment was more about acknowledging his existence for me. I think there are many ways to help including donating to organizations.

  3. Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich

    Thanks for reminding me to be more compassionate towards the homeless. <3

  4. Thank you for this article! I am sharing it with my daughter who just took on the job of Homeless Outreach Coordinator at the Catholic Center at her university. This could be a good challenge for her fellow students.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your stories Doug. I’ve never seen your blog before, I found it through Abby’s FB link. I’ve been in similar situations and know how you feel about sharing your faith to strangers. It’s not one of my strongest gifts, that’s for sure. Your story has encouraged me not to feel inadequate, but to keep doing the best I can. Also, I can only become stronger at sharing my faith. On another note, I love Abby and what she does for women fighting Planned parenthood!

  6. Thanks for sharing. I think there are ways that we can all identify with your experiences and the desire to stretch ourselves and be better. Anytime I hear the phrase “practice makes perfect” I am reminded of what my 5th grade band teacher told us, which is “practice makes permanent”. Permanently sharing kindness, love, empathy, and prayer are far more desirable than perfection. Thanks again for your blog and all the ways you support your wife and family.

  7. Thank you for writing this. This brought joy to my day and it was some much needed affirmation that my outgoing-ness is taken kindly and noticed. Talking to people is really something that truly comes naturally for me. I remember when I was a young child; my mother telling me “you can’t talk to everyone, some of them might be dangerous”. From there I wanted to be able to have the intuition to be able to tell or feel the difference between someone who was trustworthy to speak to and someone who would be dangerous for me to speak to. I also wanted to know how to speak to someone even if they were dangerous and how to diffuse a situation if needed. For years I thought I would be the person who would help another person choose not to jump off of a building or off of a bridge. In a way I do that now. I see it the same when a person is about to walk into an abortion clinic and with all my heart I don’t believe this is best for them. So I try to talk them out of it and try to pray with them when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for taking the time to write this. It’s so nice for us to have friends like you and Abby. We are truly blessed!

  8. Doug, I loved your story. It is refreshing to read simple stories by everyday people discussing baby steps in the spiritual life. I too am introverted, and “small talk” takes great discipline and energy to practice. I get “good” impulses frequently, but acting on them is a real chore. Your story encourages me to keep on trying!

    • Learning I wasn’t alone was awesome for me. People think you are being lazy or anti-social, but thats not it at all. Thanks for the comment.

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