The Tattooed Stranger

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 10, 2012

He was kind of scary. He sat there on the grass with his cardboard sign, his
dog (actually his dog was adorable) and tattoos running up and down both
arms and even on his neck. His sign proclaimed him to be “stuck and hungry”
and to please help. I’m a sucker for anyone needing help. My husband both
hates and loves this quality in me.

I pulled the van over and in my rearview mirror, contemplated this man,
tattoos and all. He was youngish, maybe forty. He wore one of those
bandannas tied over his head, biker/pirate style. Anyone could see he was
dirty and had a scraggly beard. But if you looked closer, you could see that
he had neatly tucked in the black T-shirt, and his things were in a small,
tidy bundle. Nobody was stopping for him. I could see the other drivers take
one look and immediately focus on something else – anything else. It was so
hot out. I could see in the man’s very blue eyes how dejected and tired and
worn-out he felt.

The sweat was trickling down his face. As I sat with the air-conditioning
blowing, the scripture suddenly popped into my head. “Inasmuch as ye have
done it unto the least of these, my brethren, so ye have done it unto me.” I
reached down into my purse and extracted a ten dollar bill. My twelve-year
old son, Nick knew right away what I was doing. “Can I take it to him, Mom?”
“Be careful, honey.” I warned and handed him the money. I watched in the
mirror as he rushed over to the man, and with a shy smile, handed it to him.
I saw the man, startled, stand and take the money, putting it into his back
pocket. “Good,” I thought to myself, “now he will at least have a hot meal
tonight.” I felt satisfied, proud of myself. I had made a sacrifice and now
I could go on with my errands. When Nick got back into the car, he looked at
me with sad, pleading eyes. “Mom, his dog looks so hot and the man is really
nice.” I knew I had to do more. “Go back and tell him to stay there, that we
will be back in fifteen minutes,” I told Nick. He bounded out of the car and
ran to tell the tattooed stranger. We then ran to the nearest store and
bought our gifts carefully. “It can’t be too heavy,” I explained to the
children. “He has to be able to carry it around with him.”

We finally settled on our purchases. A bag of “Ol’ Roy” (I hoped it was good
– it looked good enough for me to eat! How do they make dog food look that
way?); a flavored chew-toy shaped like a bone; a water dish, bacon flavored
snacks (for the dog); two bottles of water (one for the dog, one for Mr.
Tattoos); and some people snacks for the man. We rushed back to the spot
where we had left him, and there he was, still waiting. And still nobody
else was stopping for him. With hands shaking, I grabbed our bags and
climbed out of the car, all four of my children following me, each carrying
gifts. As we walked up to him, I had a fleeting moment of fear, hoping he
wasn’t a serial killer. I looked into his eyes and saw something that
startled me and made me ashamed of my judgment. I saw tears. He was fighting
like a little boy to hold back his tears. How long had it been since someone
showed this man kindness? I told him I hoped it wasn’t too heavy for him to
carry and showed him what we had brought. He stood there, like a child at
Christmas, and I felt like my small contributions were so inadequate. When I
took out the water dish, he snatched it out of my hands as if it were solid
gold and told me he had had no way to give his dog water. He gingerly set it
down, filled it with the bottled water we brought, and stood up to look
directly into my eyes. His were so blue, so intense and my own filled with
tears as he said “Ma’am, I don’t know what to say.” He then put both hands
on his bandanna clad head and just started to cry. This man, this “scary”
man, was so gentle, so sweet, so humble. I smiled through my tears and said
“Don’t say anything.” Then I noticed the tattoo on his neck. It said “Mama
tried.”

As we all piled into the van and drove away, he was on his knees,
arms around his dog, kissing his nose and smiling. I waved cheerfully and
then fully broke down in tears. I have so much. My worries seem so trivial
and petty now. I have a home, a loving husband, four beautiful children. I
have a bed. I wondered where he would sleep tonight. My step-daughter,
Brandie turned to me and said in the sweetest little- girl voice, “I feel so
good.” Although it seemed as if we had helped him, the man with the tattoos
gave us a gift that I will never forget. He taught that no matter what the
outside looks like, inside each of us is a human being deserving of
kindness, of compassion, of acceptance. He opened my heart. Tonight and
every night I will pray for the gentleman with the tattoos and his dog. And
I will hope that God will send more people like him into my life to remind
me what’s really important.

Copyright 1999 by Susan Fahncke
 E-mail - Susan@2theheart.com
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34 comments
  1. Thank you for sharing and reminding me how much there is in my life to be thankful for. God bless people like you.

  2. deluvian said:

    Reblogged this on aperfect0 and commented:
    Today’s post is a re-blog from a very cool site called Morning Story and Dilbert. This post has a great story illustrating the fact that simply giving money to the less fortunate often times doesn’t have the same impact or the same expression of love that taking the time to really care about the person does. Money is great but in this story the man was touched so much more by a thoughtful gift. To me it is a reminder that these type of situations aren’t solved simply by giving away money, but by interested, involved communities that care for each other and help to meet each others’s needs.

  3. |=| <–Kenny, this is my poor excuse for a tissue box that is now empty :D . This story should remind us that we each have a part to play in humanity and that we can do what God calls us for–sometimes angels on earth. I used to judge people with tattoos and now have one myself… God calls us in many different ways and doors are opened one at a time :) . We need to take advantage of each one. Take care!!! :D

  4. A very touching story. You have a kind heart and the Lord is using you to touch the lives of other people. God bless!

  5. AnswerIt said:

    It is so dangerous to do this type of thing. I know your reasons but there are people out there who are prepared to harm your children to get what they want. Being a dog lover I am so glad you organised some food for the dog too. Please be careful and never put your children in a position where they can become a victim. You have a generous and kind heart.

  6. Thank God you found my blog! And thank Him more than through that I found my way to yours. This is a truly inspiring story — that there really is nothing like the love that Jesus has for us. It’s the only love great enough to overwhelm us and get us to start sharing it. I could just imagine Jesus standing beside that tatooed man and smiling at Cheryl and her kids. I could just see Jesus standing beside Cheryl and her kids reaching out to the man and his dog as she and her kids handed out their gifts. Thank you for sharing this! God bless you! :’)

  7. Your story about helping the man and the dog is similar to my experiences with helping strangers. Several things go through my head before I react to someone who appears to be in need. I wonder if this is someone dangerous? Then I think, “What if this is an angel?” And of course, I think about what Christ said: “As you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me” (my own paraphrase, probably not an exact quote from the Bible). I’ve been burned a few times, but as long as I listen to the Holy Spirit, things go well. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It encourages me to be aware of those in need and to be prepared to help as the Holy Spirit’s guides. May the LORD bless you and your family in every way as you share His love with others.

    • Awesome Comment!!! And thanks for taking the time to key it up!! Take Care and God Bless :-) Kenny T

  8. The Commonzense of Saint James said:

    Love this: “He taught that no matter what the outside looks like, inside each of us is a human being deserving of kindness, of compassion, of acceptance”

  9. The truth of what Christianity is actually about! So many Christians drive right past this man going to and from church services! I have been guilty before as well, but I like you am a sucker for anyone in need. I am so thankful you let the Holy Spirit determine your help! How often we don’t want to be inconvenienced! This is not only a beautiful testimony to share but it is also a constant reminder of our true purpose! I must reblog! :-)

    • I can’t take credit for this story. It was written by Susan Fahncke and her copyright information is noted at the end of the Post…… Thanks for the comments and thanks for the Re-Blog… Take Care and God Bless :-) Kenny T

  10. We have just started buying cards from Subway and Macdonalds and handing them out to the street people we pass. Their varied reactions are interesting, and every time we feel as if we have at least given them food. This reminds me to perhaps give time as well. Beautiful story.

  11. Thanks, Kenny T! Now I’ve got tears in my smoothie! What a great story. God bless you. :)

  12. Hi Kenny, thank you as always for sharing this. When ever I see someone in need I always try and help as the same thought goes though me mind every time…Craig, you are a Christian and if you can’t help who will? I know we ask ourselves the questions of are they genuine? Are they really in need or just taking advantage? but who are we to judge without knowing their story? Craig

    • Hey Craig, Great comments especially “who are we to judge without knowing their story?” It’s great to hear from you!!! Take Care and God Bless :-) Kenny T

  13. Coming from someone who is “heavily” tattooed, I thank you for taking a moment to look passed the tattoos and teaching your children the same. I am a preschool teacher and every new school year I feel like I spend the first 3 months proving to the parents that I am a wonderful caring person, my tattoos don’t make me; I make my tattoos. One of the most important things we learn when becoming a teacher is to put our bias aside, because what you think about a person by seeing whats on the outside is usually a false stereotype you’ve been brainwashed to believe… You did the right thing by letting this man prove to you that he was just a lost soul looking for help.

    Continue to walk close with the lord and life will be grand.

    • Hey Jenie, Thanks for your comments!!!! My wife was a preschool teacher and Director. So, I understand where you are…. The statement you made about the tattoos is awesome “my tattoos don’t make me; I make my tattoos.” Thanks for sharing!!!!! Take Care and God Bless :-) Kenny T

  14. shasblog said:

    Reblogged this on shasblog's Blog and commented:
    Awesome testimony…had to reblog.

  15. restingintheword said:

    Thank you for sharing with that man. God bless you

  16. Lyn said:

    With so many homeless people around, and not just single men or women, but whole families, the task seems an impossible one, but if we all did something like this just once a week, how many people would feel a touch of God in their lives?

  17. gwenlovelace said:

    Beautiful story, and great lesson for all of us. Our world is increasing in the population of homeless people. People don’t think they can afford to help, but I believe there’s not much way we CAN’T afford to help. Skip the morning coffee at Starbucks, and give it to a person in need instead. Next time you’re in the drive-in, ask for the meal deal and take it to the person in need you just passed on your drive there. Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. cshowers said:

    This really blessed me. Thank you for obeying the Holy Spirit and sharing with that man.

    Love,
    Cheryl

  19. seeker said:

    A very heart warming story that brings humility in my heart. People with tattoos and dogs do have feelings, too. Thank you.

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