I saw him standing on the corner of the narrow downtown San Diego streets from the passenger seat of my friend's enormous white pickup truck. Something about his tired-looking face stood out to me. Immediately, I felt like I needed to go offer him socks and a sandwich. A few Saturdays each month, my friend and I would bring food and socks and hand them out as we hung out with some homeless people known to live in the area.
But the man didn't really look homeless, so I almost talked myself out of it. Wouldn't he be offended if a random stranger offered him a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich and generic white socks?
I assumed he would be gone by the time we got to that street corner. First we had to park and haul bags of food down a five-floor parking garage, Perfect excuse to not do something potentially embarrassing and offensive.
But when my friend and I walked out of that garage ten minutes later, I saw the man was still standing in the exact same spot. There wasn't a way out- I knew we needed to go talk to him. My friend and I crossed the street and walked straight up to him.
"Excuse me. This is random, but do you want socks or a sandwich or a bottle of water?" I asked. His eyes widened and his face looked limp. For a few seconds, he didn't say anything. It was just enough time for me to convince myself that I had just offended a random stranger in the middle of a busy street with the audience of judge-y strangers. I almost started to apologize when his face finally showed what emotion he was feeling- shock.
"What?" He spit out suddenly. "Did you just offer me socks? Are you serious? I just told God that I need socks and that I wasn't leaving this street corner until I got new socks."
My friend and I stood there, sharing his shock. We laughed because we didn't know what to say. This was the first time I'd ever heard anyone say that they prayed for socks. Wow, within minutes, God had answered his request.
He was clearly deeply moved and didn't say much after that. My friend and I chatted with him for a quick minute, and he let us pray for him. He left that street corner with the exact thing he asked God for.
Later, it hit me what the encounter demonstrated. The profound, immense, deep, passionate care that God had for that man was practically expressed through a single pair of Costco men's socks.
All of the "socks and sandwiches" stuff started when I was a college student and read in Isaiah 58 that God wanted me to share my food with the hungry, which I decided to take literally. I cut down on my food budget and whenever I saved an extra $15, enough for the ingredients for 40 sandwiches, I would make up a bunch of peanut butter and jelly, and take them to parts of downtown where the homeless often stayed. Later, I brought socks along after many started telling me that's what they appreciated the most.
It would have been easier with my hectic student schedule to give my money away to a hunger-related cause. But when I prayed about what to do with the money, I felt like I needed to do something that would give personal connection to the hungry that I was sharing "my food" with.
There was so much that I learned through the years I did this. But this one has stuck deeply with me. Something as small as socks can supernaturally communicate the immense care and concern that God has for each of us individually.
Simple gestures tangibly express God's love. While they are so easy to overlook because they seem mundane and unimportant, if we let ourselves be motivated by love, those gestures can have a deep impact. Whenever we share our lives, our food, and ourselves, no matter how small it may seem, we get to participate in demonstrating to the world what a generous and caring Father that God is.