The Lawrence Little Dilemma Continues…

You could have heard a pin drop in the Goose Family living room when Mother Goose announced to her dear husband that her new friend was a homeless man. In fact, not only did I hear pins dropping, but jaws dropping as well.

When he had recovered from shock, Husband Goose asked in a fairly steady voice, “Do you think it was a good idea to invite a homeless stranger into our house?”

Mother Goose smiled and spoke quietly, “I knew that he was not dangerous.”

“You know, the village police would advise against that sort of hospitality.”

“Yes, I’m sure they would, but I just knew it would be safe.”

And indeed Mother Goose does NOT invite every stranger into her home. It is VERY risky, potentially disastrous AND dangerous to just open the doors and allow every beggar and homeless wanderer into the security of our homes. There are safe places for people to spend their nights and get good meals if they are in need.

I am usually a quite cautious goose, but for this one time, I was acting out of an internal conviction and heart-felt compassion for this one particular man who I immediately recognized as a Christ follower, a brother in the Lord.

Nonetheless we have a new policy in our home: there will be no homeless people allowed into the house. Period. And that includes Lawrence Little. And, of course, I respect that and will support the policy.

I called Pastor Michael Wright of The Liberty Worship Center on Washington Street in Oak Park the very next day. He was as kind and helpful as Lawrence had told me he’d be. He invited us to his church and offered to bring us a gift of a nice study Bible in the meantime. I thanked him graciously, of course, and then asked him about Lawrence, explaining our concern for him as well as the best way to proceed in this new relationship. I had some suspicions that some of the problems Lawrence had alluded to over our lunch were of a very serious nature, and probably beyond my capability to fix.

“First of all,” the pastor began, “Lawrence is harmless. I’ve known him for more than six years and he is completely harmless. However, he has struggled in the past with addiction. He’s been coming to our church for a long time, and is known and loved in our congregation. However, Lawrence has approached every single one of us often for money and promises of work. He needs to realize that people can only help him to a certain degree, and then he must allow God to do the rest of the helping. We are not God, and we cannot be God.”

“Pastor,” I said, “I have given Lawrence money and he has come back to our home for more help, for more money. I do not have any work for him to do, and I have exhausted my resources for him. On the other hand, I feel bad for him and his circumstance.”

“Mother Goose, you are a very kind and loving person. I can easily tell that you are a giving person who has a large heart. But please do not give Lawrence anymore money. This situation is very similar to putting out food for a stray cat who will continue to return to your doorstep as long as you put out the food. And do not feel bad about saying ‘no’ — do not feel guilty for turning down his request. Allow God to work now. And the next time you see Lawrence, please tell him that we’ve missed him at church, and that if you are going to be visiting, he’d better be there too!”

Pastor Michael laughed a bit at that, and we bid each other a cordial goodbye.

Mother Goose hung up the phone with a real sense of peace. I felt that between the new family policy of no homeless people in the house and the Godly and wise counsel of the pastor, I could now establish some boundaries with this needy friend. I knew that he would return to our doorstep. and I felt equipped to deal with the situation in a firm, but loving fashion.

Homelessness in our country is at an all time record high. The shelters are filled to overflowing in Chicago and its suburbs. We have beggars with their regular posts at street corners, intersections, sitting along the sidewalks downtown, sleeping in doorsteps and on the trains and park benches everywhere.


The heart of Mother Goose breaks especially for the women and children who have no where to go and seemingly live only by the kindness of strangers. I give and give and give because it’s the right thing to do.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25: 34-40)

This is how Mother Theresa describes the situation: “Whenever I meet someone in need,” she said, “it’s really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”

How much doing is enough? How much giving is enough?

The dilemma of Lawrence Little is that we all want to help in some way. But like the Pastor said, we are not God. We can help in our own small ways or even big ways, but we cannot fix the bigger problem. I could give him every dollar in my checking account and he would still come back for more — offering to do work for me, of course.

Dear and kind-hearted readers, love your neighbors and care for the poor and downcast. Share your hope of heaven with them. Give them a cheeseburger or a giftcard to get their own lunch. Trust God for all things. Pray for wisdom and guidance from the One who loves us with an infinite and everlasting love.

Lunch with Lawrence Little

(Is Mother Goose a fool? Am I a saint? The story continues…)

Mother Goose was dozing on the couch when the sharp knocking on the door startled her to wakefulness. I had been plagued by a stubborn headache all morning on Wednesday and was resting my head. Oddly, my good dog, Fran, did not bark. Mother Goose got up slowly from the couch and made her way to the front door, noticing the time on her phone said 1:00 pm, and it was still Wednesday.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess who was on the other side of the door. Mother Goose knew it would be Lawrence, and then also remembered that she didn’t have a job in mind for him to work on. There was obviously no yard work, no shoveling to do, no cleaning or painting. Maybe he could clean the steering fluid puddle off the driveway? Nothing was coming to mind as she turned the handle on the front door.

And there was Lawrence smiling brightly.

“Please, won’t you come in?” asked Mother Goose as though she were inviting the President to enter her home.

He stepped across the threshold of our home with a look of surprise.

“Would you care for a cup of coffee?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am, I would,” answered Lawrence Little, the homeless man who was looking for work in the general area of a friendly goose.

“Did you find a place to stay last night?” Mother Goose asked as calmly as if she had homeless people over to her house for lunch all the time.

“Oh, I ended up staying far away from Oak Park last night,” Lawrence replied. “Sometimes I just sleep on the el, but it’s hard to sleep when you are on the el. You have to keep looking over your shoulder to see if anyone might rob you. Of course, I don’t have anything to rob…” His voice just trailed off.

Lawrence carries no backpack, has no baggage, just the clothes on his back. The “el” is Chicago’s elevated train system. There are many routes or lines of this mode of transportation: red line, green line, blue line, brown line, pink line, etc. The blue line runs all night and is known as a semi-safe place for homeless people to spend the night if they aren’t close to a homeless shelter or can’t afford one.

I had asked Lawrence if he’d tried staying at the Oak Park homeless shelter. He said that it’s like winning the lottery to get in. Many people try, but few are chosen.

Mother Goose led him to the kitchen and had him sit down at the table. She poured him a cup of orange juice, set it in front of him and asked if he’d had anything to eat yet today.

“Yes, ma’am, I had a sandwich.”

“Would you like some bacon and eggs?” asked Mother Goose.

“Yes, ma’am, I would. Thank you so much.”

The hands of Mother Goose shook as she scooped the coffee grounds into the coffee maker and then poured in the water. She was trying so hard to appear casual and confident as they made small talk about his family and hers, his life on the streets and hers in a house with children. Mother Goose knew very well the potential for danger in this situation.

But he talked and talked, and Mother Goose listened and made agreeable conversation whilst she melted the butter, fried the bacon, cracked the eggs into the pan, split the bagel and put it in the toaster. Mother Goose is very good at listening to folks make small talk and making breakfast for people — she can practically do both in her sleep…

“What church do you go to, Mother Goose?” Lawrence asked.

I looked him square in the eye and said, “Lawrence, I love the Lord, but I just don’t do well in church. The people there just don’t seem to understand me.” Dear reader, you can read an allegorical account of my latest bad church experience if you just click here.

“Oh, I know all about that,” he said. “But I have such a good church now. Maybe you’d like to visit our church — it’s right here in Oak Park.”

He gave me the name of his church, the address where it’s located and the name and phone number of his pastor.

bacon and eggs

Mother Goose set down a bacon and egg sandwich in front of Lawrence, and then wrote down all of his churchy information.

I asked about his family, of course. His mother moved to Jackson, Mississippi many years ago. She has a whole set of problems of her own. He says that she loves him, but says that he has to work out his own life on his own. He also has an older sister who is a doctor, he said. He didn’t mention a father.

“I’m forty-five years old,” Lawrence announced.

“How long have you been unemployed?” Mother Goose asked politely.

“Since 1998,” he answered. “I used to work at the Jewels in the Chef’s Kitchen, but then I got into some trouble because my mother, she was having some problems. I’m a momma’s boy, I’m the youngest, you know. I made a lot of bad choices, and that’s how I ended up here.”

“But things are getting better,” Lawrence continued as I tried hard to process all of this conversation and this unusual situation I was in. “I have a place to stay. The lady there said I could stay for thirty days if I’d just get some work and pay her some money. And here’s my Illinois ID card.”

He showed me his card which had an address and his picture on it. He told me the name of the landlord and the address of where he could be staying if he could just come up with the rent money for one month. I shakily scribbled it all down on the opposite side of the paper as the pastor’s name and number.

Poor Mother Goose was beginning to feel very overwhelmed. The bagel sandwich was quickly disappearing, and Lawrence was talking about how kind she was, and how they were friends now. Mother Goose got out her wallet to give him some money to help him with his potential rent payment.

“I have to walk over to the school and get my daughter now,” I said.

“Oh I understand,” said Lawrence. “Ok. Thank you so much for the lunch. It was so good. Which way are you going?”

Mother Goose put on her coat and shoes at the front door. We walked down the block together. He asked when he could come back and do some work for me. “Well,” I said, “Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday so I’ll be busy with that. Maybe Friday?”

“Oh thank you, Mother Goose,” he said. “I’m just so happy that we are friends! Do you know I can draw pictures? Maybe I could draw a picture for your daughter.”

We said “goodbye” and parted ways. He continued to talk as I walked west and he walked east. I knew that I needed to tell somebody really soon about my new friend, Lawrence.

That evening I said to my dear husband, “I made a new friend today! He’s a homeless man.”

You won’t want to miss the next chapter of my story, “The Lawrence Little Dilemma”.

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March 2023