My small group met Allan a few summers ago outside a sketchy motel. It’s one of the few places in town that offers pay-by-the-week rent. Living on a fixed income, Allan had trouble making ends meet. He only owned a few outfits, and his sweat was visible on his long-sleeved shirt. His beard was long and white, left untrimmed for years.
The first thing I noticed about Allan, though, was his love for the neighbor kids. Our small group went to the motel that day, not to meet Allan, but to get to know a family living there. We’d learned how they’d been in and out of the local homeless shelter, and we wanted to get to know them better. We were visiting that day to walk with them to a nearby ice cream shop.
Protective of the youngest child, Allan stepped out of the neighboring hotel room to check us out. We invited him along to put him at ease. We spent the next 90 minutes getting to know this elderly man. He spent the entire conversation watching the littlest girl out of the corner of his eye.
An Unlikely Friend
I initially didn’t think much of our conversation. But over the next few weeks, I couldn’t shake Allan from my mind. Maybe our small group was meant to meet him. Maybe we could help him. Maybe we could get him out of that motel.
It turns out the rest of my small group felt moved to help Allan as well. The problem is, we didn’t really know how to help. He’d mentioned wanting to visit our church, so one group member started picking him up every Sunday morning.1