On our recent trip to the coast, I made a new friend.
My daughter, her best friend and I perused the shops beside the boardwalk in the historic district along the cobblestones to our dinner spot. They became enthralled with a teeny-bop tourist shop so I let them explore it while I waited on the bench right outside the open double doors. They held up different items for me to see and evaluate the quality with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Finally, they chose Jamaican-style bracelets which tied on the wrist. My daughter’s friend asked for help tying hers on and neither my daughter nor I could seem to make it tight enough for her liking. So I called the sales associate to show us the trick in getting the bracelet to tie tightly. She gladly came out and gave us all of her attention teaching my daughter’s friend step by step how to make it work.
As the three of them became absorbed in the art of bracelet tying, I got distracted. A short, thin African-American man whose face looked like a friendly lost puppy passed by the shops. He could have been in his 50s or 60s but had a childlike spirit, was humble with light in his eyes. He wore a new sky-blue polyester work shirt with a collar. I could tell it was a hand-me-down from a charity. Our eyes met, mine saying, “I see you.”
Sensing his need, I asked the associate if she would be working on the bracelet for a few more minutes so I could step aside. She glanced over at the object of my attention and with a slight ‘Are you serious?’ look in her eyes, she obliged.
To the man’s surprise, I approached him.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Do you have any extra cash, Mam, so I could get some dinner? There’s a restaurant over there,” he pointed across the way, “where I can get a salad.”
“I’ll be glad to buy you dinner. Where around here can I get you something you’d like?” He looked around for a minute and pointed to the cafe diagonally across the narrow cobblestone alleyway which led out to the boardwalk by the sea.
“Okay, so what will you have?”
“Um. Can you get me a banana, a brownie and a root beer soda?”
“That sounds like a pretty good dinner to me,” I commented as bananas and chocolate have always been favorites of mine. “I’ll be right back.”
I walked across to the cafe and a few minutes later exited holding his dinner in a brown paper bag. As I approached him, he looked so surprised that I would help him out. The look in his eyes triggered memories of my life when I had been in tremendous need and there was no one to help me.
“God bless you, brother,” I said with sincerity as I handed him the bag.
“Thank you. God bless you,” he replied, “God bless you.”
As I turned to leave him, I heard, “Excuse me, Mam. Would you mind if I gave you a hug?” I turned around.
“I would love a hug,” I replied. Like a child on Christmas morning after finding that special gift he longed for most, he proceeded to give me the most sincere, heart-felt hug I have received, maybe…ever in my life. As we let go, our eyes locked in a spirit of thanksgiving and we smiled.
“You take care now,” I said as I pulled myself away from the divine appointment. At that moment I had the strongest desire to spend more time with him. I knew he had rich stories to tell– about life, about his childhood, and the circumstances that led to his current situation. I wanted him to share his stories with me. I wanted to see how he spent his time each day. I wanted to hit the pause button on my life and call in a film crew for me to interview him and make a week-long documentary on his life.
As I returned to the shop, my audience of three stood there waiting for me.
“Everything all set?” I asked.
“Yes,” they replied in unison. During my absence the associate’s demeanor toward me had shifted to relief and understanding as we smiled in agreement.
“Thank you so much for your help,” I said to her as the girls came down the steps. “You have a great day,” I waved as we meandered toward the restaurant.
Over dinner, the girls and I discussed Christ’s powerful words concerning those in need (Matt. 25:31-41). We discussed the idea of teaching people how to fish rather than giving them fish (2 Thes. 3:10). And we discussed being led of the Spirit (Rom. 8:4).
I think about my friend.
I pray for him.
I wonder if he knows that he was just as much of a blessing to me as I was to him.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.
“You are the God who sees me,”
A Pastor’s Transformation(brokenbelievers.com)