Under the Bridge

Saturday night, we were blessed to receive several tickets to the Charlotte Bobcats basketball game. The Chicago Bulls were in town, and I have to admit, I was very excited. The Bulls have been my favorite NBA team since the late 80’s. It would be my first time to watch them live, and I was pumped and ready for the experience. We parked a couple miles away from the arena and walked. It was cold. Once the sun faded into the horizon, the temperature dropped quickly. The wind ripped through in gusts reaching more miles per hour than I would have wanted. Even with jackets on, we were all gritting our teeth and shivering from the frigid air.

Then I noticed the man sleeping under the bridge, and my heart sank.

With one quick glance, my excitement for the game diminished into a gut-wrenching reality. I’ve written about the homeless before. I penned an Open Letter to Society where I attempted to put myself in the place of someone living on the streets. However great my intentions were in the moment, I can’t possibly fathom what it’s like to survive in a world completely opposite of our own. Well, it was nearing six o’clock, and we were already running behind. We continued on to our destination inside the Time Warner Cable arena, where the warmth embraced us like the father who welcomed home his prodigal son.

I enjoyed the game and the atmosphere, but inside, the image of that man sleeping under the bridge haunted me. Our friend said there were several people who lived beneath that same covering of concrete and steel. They stopped asking others for anything a long time ago. Our first instinct, when a homeless person asks for money, is to cringe inside and either ignore them, or shake our heads and keep on walking. I completely understand that feeling. However, an excuse that the person may abuse the money on drugs or alcohol doesn’t make up for our indifference. Yes, I’ve given people money when they asked for it, but I would much rather buy them a value meal from McDonald’s, or take them a coat. Like everything else, there are many opinions on the issue of homelessness in our country. I’m not here to debate those with anyone.

I’m talking about a loss of interest in basic humanity. We don’t know the story behind the woman with a cardboard sign standing at the intersection. We assume the man lying on the park bench is a drug abuser. We say the crippled man on the corner begging is just faking a disability to gain sympathy. Is the “we can’t help everyone” mentality crushing our desire to love these people regardless of their appearance, story, or capability to seek employment? But wait, God helps those who help themselves, right? Isn’t that the mantra we use as Christians to avoid associating with people who make us feel uncomfortable?

You can search the Bible page by page, verse by verse, and you will never find that phrase anywhere. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. The entire point of Jesus dying on the cross was because there was nothing we could do in our own power to obtain salvation. If God only helps those who help themselves, we are all doomed to an eternity in Hell. Romans 5:6 says this:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,Christ died for the ungodly.

Jesus died for the homeless, the ones standing on a street corner begging, that man lying on the park bench, the woman outside the fast food joint hoping someone will buy her a burger, and the very same man I saw sleeping under that bridge. The blind, the leper, and the lame were all powerless to help themselves, and Jesus helped them anyway.

What’s our excuse?

Chris Martin

An Open Letter to the President.

You don’t know my name, and we will never meet. I am nothing more than a statistic penciled into a spreadsheet that will eventually disappear like the bright sun falling into the arms of twilight. This letter isn’t only from me. It is the cry of many voices who have been silenced before ever given the chance to speak. It’s a rise against injustice, but more importantly, inhumanity. You see, there are many arguments to both sides of the issue, but my thoughts are conceived from personal experience. This letter isn’t a collection of words I grouped together to stress a point. It’s a plea for mercy.

You are arguably the most powerful man in the world. When you speak, people listen. In your hand, you hold enough authority to initiate changes that affect an entire nation. For those reasons, I am bringing my request directly to your doorstep. I understand there is nothing more anyone can do for me. I know this is a fact, and I have come to accept it as such. However, I believe there is still a chance for those with a destiny not yet defined. With their future hanging in a fragile balance, I urge you to consider my words not only with an open mind, but also with an open heart.

At the moment conception sparks, I have life. I am no longer a thought or whispered hope playing hide and seek with a woman’s emotions. I am real. I might not be able to speak, demonstrate logic, or even vote, but the beginning of my journey has sprung into existence. The One who breathed life into all of creation has determined I am worth forming inside my mother’s womb. With gentle hands, He has carefully sewn me together and shaped my entire being. My future consists of many pages waiting to be penned. But, like so many others, the story concluded before it had a chance to flourish.

I believe it was hard for her. I listened to her weep every night as she dropped to her knees and prayed to God. I could feel guilt and shame permeate her entire being. I screamed out for her to please give me a chance at something miraculous and wonderful, but she couldn’t hear me. I just don’t understand why my own mother wouldn’t want me. How can someone discard another human being before they even meet face to face? Did something horrible happen to her, and she didn’t think there was any other option? Was she pressured into a decision she wasn’t quite ready to make? I know she believed it was wrong, because she wrestled back and forth with the idea up until the very moment it happened.

I often think about how my life would be right now had I been given a chance. Would I have been interested in sports? Maybe I would have ventured into politics where I would have the power to influence the lives of so many people. What would my favorite color have been? My favorite food? Would I have been pretty? Would I have liked my name? All of these are questions that will never be answered. Mr. President, have you ever stopped to consider that you could have been nothing more than a statistic as well? What if your mother had been too frightened with the ramifications of giving birth to a child?

Every breath you take, every word you speak, every emotion you feel. You owe it all to a mother who decided it was worth the risk to bring you into this world. I’m sure, like my own mother, she was terrified and nervous, because there are a million things that can go wrong. But, you were given a chance to write your story. You had the opportunity to shape your future. And you had the good fortune to experience the gratification of being a parent. I will never have any of those things. They were unfairly ripped from my grasp before I could even see the light of day.

When you so easily say every woman should have a choice at killing their own child, please remember this letter. The blood of thousands, no millions, is dripping from your hands, and you act as if it doesn’t bother you. The indifference of a society hell-bent on pleasing the masses is destroying this country. Every night before you slip into bed, take a long look into the mirror and ask yourself one question. What if you’re wrong?

You don’t know my name, and we will never meet.

An Open Letter to Society.

You’ve seen me. I’m the man standing at the intersection holding a small, poorly written message on a cardboard sign. I’m the woman peering into your window at the stop light, hoping you will reach out your hand and drop some change into mine. Most people don’t even have the decency to look me directly in the eye. Are you frightened of me? Are you so engrossed in your own personal world that you don’t notice me? Or, is it something else? Has the cold reality of indifference permeated the very fiber of every human being not sleeping on the streets?

I understand you don’t know me. You see me as a complete stranger, begging for money or cigarettes. Granted, there are some who wander around mooching off others simply because they lack the desire to wake up every morning and go into work. Having figured out that wearing old, dirty clothes and not bathing for days may earn them sympathy, they become actors, living a lie. Maybe it’s their deception that has tainted the views of an uncaring society. Like everything else, we are branded with a stereotype that may very well seal our destiny. It’s the “If you’ve seen one beggar, you’ve seen them all” mentality. I urge you, no, I implore you to hear me out. Let these words sink through your hardened exterior and into the cracks of a soul that yearns to believe in the good of humanity.

I once had a great life. I was married with two kids. I was blessed with an amazing job that took me around the world to see places I could never have dreamed of visiting. It’s easy to take everything for granted when life is going so well. The reality is that nothing lasts forever, and the rug can be yanked out at any moment. We go through life feeling invincible, that all of our hopes and dreams are waiting patiently at the end of our fingertips. I worked hard for the things I used to have. I fought to keep them in my life, but sometimes, giving everything we have is just simply not enough. The darkness I endured for several years took its toll, leaving me with nothing I could call my own, except for the dirt on the soles of my worn out shoes.

You see, I served my country for many years. I fought battles in a war raging thousands of miles away from the comfort and safety of my home. I witnessed the worst humanity has to offer, and sometimes the best. The nightmares are relentless, and I fear they will follow me to my grave. I’ve watched men, women, and children die in the arms of brutal violence with no meaning. Brave men and women sacrificed their lives for complete strangers, and never gave it a second thought. They were my brothers and sisters. They had become my family. When I returned from the horrors of war, I found there wasn’t a place for me here anymore. I felt like an outcast, an alien in a foreign land. When I should have been welcomed home as a hero who served his country with pride and dedication, I was thrown to the curb. I lost everything.

The stress of living with a damaged vet was too much for my wife. She took both kids and left me. I couldn’t find a job. I was told to get therapy, but no one would help pay for it. So I sat in an empty house, while the world kept on turning, wondering why I was even alive. Deep down, the memories of my fallen brothers urged me to shake off self pity, and earn the life their sacrifice had purchased. I just didn’t have anything left that resembled hope. When the bank took my house, I had no choice but to leave with nothing but the clothes on my back. I thank God there are still homeless shelters available for temporary living quarters. Mostly though, I’m alone on the streets with nothing but hopelessness and a small sign.

I stare into the eyes of strangers hoping someone will give me a chance. As I lay awake on the sidewalk under the blanket of a cardboard box, I ask God why. Why doesn’t anyone care about those of us who are struggling? Why can’t we ever seem to catch a break? Why has society turned their backs on the less fortunate, and instead they chase after luxury cars and over-spacious homes? With blood and tears, I fought for the very freedoms they take for granted. Yet, I am looked upon as nothing more than a homeless beggar. A citizen from the underbelly of this great nation I lost everything for.

The next time you see someone standing at the intersection holding a cardboard sign, remember this letter. That person might be a mother or father. They are someone’s son or daughter.

Maybe they are like me, a veteran who has no home. A man who has no hope.

Chris Martin

For Them

Since it’s Veteran’s Day, I wanted to put links to four tributes I’ve written for our troops. They are all on my blog, but instead of having to search through so many posts, they will be right here in one convenient location. Most of you may have read them, but let’s keep our troops in mind today. Not only those who have served courageously in the past, but also those serving today.

When A Soldier Cries

The Letter

The American Soldier

Thank You Isn’t Enough


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Have a blessed day