Several mornings a week on my commute to work, I am in a line for the light approaching the freeway to downtown Portland. As is common with so many freeway entrances these days there is someone at the light asking for a handout—in this case, an elderly man sitting in a motorized wheelchair. He has apparently suffered many severe illnesses causing him to lose one of his legs and partially losing his other leg at the knee. His hair is scraggly, and he is missing several teeth. He wears an old brown raincoat, rain or shine. Someone must have given him a knitted hat recently. He wears it with pride. He clearly has had a hard life.

What sets him apart from many people asking for handouts is the fact that he does not ask for anything. He merely smiles and waves at the drivers. I have been known to give him a dollar or two, which he nods and accepts graciously.

If the window of your car is rolled down, he always says, “Thank you kindly and God bless you!”

Once in a while I stop at Starbucks in hopes he will be there to give him a croissant or a muffin. I give him this with a cup of coffee. His smile is infectious when he receives it—almost like a child at Christmas when handed their favorite gift. He tells me, “Thank you. You just made my day.”

A while back, I asked him his name and asked if I could pray for him.

His response was, “Oh yes, please pray for me. I’m Jesse.”

Our occasional meetings have been going on for a few years. I like greeting him. I find myself a little sad when some time has gone by and he hasn’t been there. I worry if he is ill, or worse, has died. I’m so glad I asked him his name and asked if I could pray for him. It’s the best gift I know how to give. Because I haven’t seen him in a few months now I pray he is being taken care of.

When a child is born and the mother holds that child in her arms it seems like the possibilities of life ahead will be endless for her child. But this is not always the case. Many things can happen along the way.

Being born in poverty, being born with limited resources, having no one to guide you, experiencing illness, losing a loved one, getting wounded in battle, living with depression, developing drug addiction, losing a pet—all of these can affect whether you are the person helping someone on the street or seeking help for yourself.

I was talking with a coworker yesterday about how many homeless people are living under the bridges and bushes in Oregon. He almost seemed angry about them. He commented to me that they are all just waiting for their next drug and our city needs to get them off the streets. I told him I was hoping to win the big lottery a couple of weeks ago so I could build a big shelter in Portland and help their cause. His response was, “You would only be inviting more homeless to come here.”

After thinking about my daily encounters with Jesse, I decided the one need that they all have in common is the need for more prayer.

My mother use to say there is nothing more powerful than prayer. I decided to test that theory. When we are praying for our families and friends and the people we love, I think we all should add a prayer for people like Jesse. I think that is the best gift we can give.

If my mother encountered someone who was injured or living with suffering of some kind, she would say, “God has a special place in heaven for them.”

I believe this is true. My prayer for Jesse and all those people sleeping under the bridges and bushes: “Please God, give Jesse and all of the homeless that special place in Heaven they so deserve.”

I’m pretty sure His answer will be a resounding “Yes.”