The other day as I was leaving the grocery store I passed an older man (60s?) standing outside. He was wearing a sort of string-vest like tee-shirt, shorts, and a navy blue baseball-cap. As I pushed my full trolley passed him he said, “I’m a veteran and I haven’t eaten anything today.” I continued pushing my trolley all the way to my car while thinking, I wonder if he really is a veteran.
I knew I had a five dollar bill in my purse and I’d decided I was going to give it to him. I walked back to the store and handed him the five dollars. He did something that threw me. As my hand was extended toward him, and holding out the bill, he reached out and cupped my hand in both of his. Both of his hands were just about to lock on my wrist. instinctively I pulled my hands away from him and recoiled.
Was he simply trying to show thankfulness in a warm way? You know, like the way when you shake the hands of an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time; you shake with one hand and wrap the other hand over that in a sign of warmth. Was he trying to do that? I don’t know. All I do know is I felt threatened. By what? I don’t know. Germs? Captivity? Demonic oppression? I have no idea!
We Christians are supposed to love the unlovely, the outcast, the downright nasty. But in our own humanity we cannot. Well, I cannot. Some of us are offended, afraid, or lack the confidence to step-up or step-in. How very sad that with all the amazing things we CAN do we cannot love or minister to the least of these. What does that tell us about ourselves? We are the truly poor! We are so poor in Spirit that we do not have the power to love the needy or the hurting. Oh, we can throw money (from a distance), or donate our outworn clothes, or say a little prayer, but don’t ask us to remove our shoes, roll-up our sleeves and wade-in. It’s just too scary.
That same night hubby invited me to go to Dairy Queen for an ice-cream. We haven’t done that in about a year. As we were getting ready to leave D Q with our cones in hand who should walk in but the man I’d given the five dollars to earlier in the day. I’d figured he would use the five dollars to buy booze, but here he was buying a burger for his dinner. He didn’t notice me. But as he stood at the counter with his back to me I read the band on the back of his baseball-cap: NAVY.
God, I wish I was like Mother Teresa, able to see Jesus in every human being. It would make the unlovely, the outcast, and the needy so much easier to love.