“If you are still up there…”

That was the prayer Pat recalled to me while standing in line at Ralph’s grocery store on January 20th, 1992 (Martin Luther King, Jr. day).  I was reminded of my experience a couple weeks ago as we celebrated the national holiday.

Will work for foodNan and I were living in Pasadena, California, at the time.  I worked for a large bank in Beverly Hills, and it was a holiday so I was enjoying an unstructured day in beautiful Southern California.  I had the top down on my sports car as I headed up Lake Avenue, one of the most heavily-traveled streets in Pasadena.  As I approached Ralph’s, I noticed a young man in his late-twenties carrying a large (probably five by five feet) sign overhead with the words “Will Work For Food.”  Those words weren’t extraordinary; there were many homeless living in and around the city.  What was extraordinary was the size of his sign and that his entire family was seated in the grass along the sidewalk with signs stating the same words.

As I passed, I felt a burden.  Here I was, headed to the local bookstore, and this family didn’t have enough to eat.  Then I heard a very clear and distinct voice in my mind, just as if there was someone seated in my car next to me: “You need to help him.”  Immediately, a little startled, I retorted back, “I can’t help him. I don’t have any money on me.”  Immediately, the response came back to me: “You have your checkbook.  You can take them inside and buy whatever they need.”  Without a response, I relented and said, “Okay, I’ll head to the bookstore, and if he is still there when I return, I’ll stop.”

I must have been in the bookstore for at least 45 minutes before I checked out.  As I headed back, I almost forgot about the interaction until I got nearer, and my heart started pounding.  There, in the same spot, was this young man pacing back and forth with large sign overhead.  How many others had driven by without stopping, I wondered.  As I pulled into the parking lot, my heart started pounding more heavily.  As I approached him, his clear blue eyes met mine, and he put his sign down.  Still not knowing what to say, I opened my mouth and out came the words: “My name is Craig.  I want to help.”

I’ll never forget the look in his eyes.  It was as if they were saying, “I can’t believe this is happening.”  I noticed relief on his face.  He told me his name was Pat.  After putting Ralphstheir signs in the trunk of their car, we walked toward the store, and he shared that he was a pipefitter and had been out of work for six months.  His wife told me their son’s name was Matthew and their daughter was Sandy.  After we got inside, I told him to get whatever they needed and I’d hang out near the magazine rack.  I told them to take their time; I didn’t have anywhere else to be.

After awhile, they returned with a full cart.  As we were waiting in line at the checkout, we looked at each other in a moment of awkward silence.  He spoke first, and I’ll never forget the prayer he recollected: “This morning I woke up, and we didn’t have any food in the house.  I looked up and said, ‘If you are still up there, we need your help.’  It’s obvious that He still is, because you came along.  I know I’m going to beat this, and when I get back to work, I want to go out and find someone to help just like you helped us.”

Even though Pat may have not realized it at the time, he was included (perhaps without a clue) in God’s love, and I had been given an opportunity to participate in that love for him and his family.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are actively involved in the personal lives of all humanity.  What a privilege it is to participate in that love, even if it is a little scary at the time.  When we do, the recipient of God’s love naturally wants to pay it forward.  When we don’t believe, we naturally doubt, and may ask God, “Are you still up there?”  As we participate in God’s love for all humanity, we help others feel assured of his response.

~by Craig Kuhlman

9 comments so far

  1. jcooperforpeace on

    great post… i have had similar experiences…. it brings peace to one’s life to hear and answer the call to particiapte in shared humanity.

  2. Jeannine on

    Wonderful post, Craig!

    • kuhlmancraig on

      Thank you, Jeannine 🙂

  3. Lisa Bendele on

    Craig, what a wonderful testamonial. It only takes one stone to make a ripple effect. I’m glad you were that stone in that man’s life, and that by giving him hope, he may have let God take his life and give him what he needs. Thanks to people such as yourself who listen to God’s direction, and are the examples of what it means to be a disciple.

  4. kuhlmancraig on


    Thank you so much for your kind words.

    They are much appreciated,

  5. billwinn on

    The God who is will not be so without us” ~Karl Barth It is cool to see folks who can participate with Jesus with ease and confidence.

  6. Carrie Smith on

    Wonderful story and a good reminder that we can all help someone. You participated in making a difference in that family’s life – rather than saying what most of us often say ‘I can’t help them all, there’s just too many’, you chose to stop and help one. If we could all start by just helping one… I wonder if we would begin to see that there’s not too many after all.

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