I assume he was homeless, though I don't really know. All I know is that he was shaggy and dirty, and he was knocking on the door of the Gold and Silver Buyers office where I work.
Buying precious metals is a new and fascinating experience for me. My friend Tom Davis has been setting up stores in our area as a ministry-based business. When he asked me to help, my response was, "I don't know anything about gold and silver—except that I like them!"
Well, I know more now, and I thoroughly enjoy the business. I meet people from every walk of life, and every one of them has a story. But I never had a homeless guy as a customer—until now.
I spotted him through the glass door, standing with a friend, smoking a cigarette, and holding up something for me to see. Per our security setup, I had to decide, as I do with every customer, to buzz him in or not.
I had a sense of peace about this man, so I let him in. His friend stayed outside.
He smoothed his hair, walked over to the counter, and showed me what he had in his hands: a little locket that looked as though it had been run over by a car.
"I'd like to sell it," he said. "It's silver, miss."
I looked at the locket. Probably silver, but very small. My newfound expertise told me it was worth about a dollar.
I opened my mouth to tell him so, then shut it, feeling the need to pay attention to what God wanted to do with this encounter. And the words that became clear to me in that moment were, Declare dignity to this man.
Declare dignity. That's what so many of us need, isn't it? The dignity of knowing that we matter to God and to others, that we're taken seriously. The question, of course, was how to declare dignity to this man in this particular moment. I didn't have an answer, except to treat him the way I would treat the customers who come in with thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry. They're hungry for dignity too.
Sensing God's Presence
"Sir, I have some cookies and water. Would you like some?"
Surprised, he answered, "Thanks." He walked to the nearby table, took several cookies and a bottle of water, and returned to the counter.
"Can you tell me about this piece of jewelry?" I held up the mangled little piece.
He shrugged. "I found it. Thought it might be worth something."
"Well, let me see what I can do for you." I searched for marks and weighed it. "This is sterling, but it doesn't weigh much. I could give you, hmm, three dollars for it."