So there was this time that I had to be okay, I guess I didn’t have to, but I resolved to… resolved to be okay even though I could have had my phone stolen or my purse. I was with some friends visiting a suburb of Pittsburgh for a David Crowder concert. We were making a whole day of it. One of our first stops was a record store, a REAL record store. While I enjoy music I quickly grew tired of walking the isles and I headed outside to, what looked to be, a new park across the street to take some photos of the trees in bloom in some great lighting.
I turned back to take pictures of the record store when I saw her. I made judgments about her immediately, sorry to say that I did. And from across the street I thought she spotted me as she dropped her purse, emptied the contents on the sidewalk while muttering louder each time, “Oh, No! Oh, No!”
And I knew. I knew she would try to get me to help her. I tried to look occupied, find ANYTHING else to do, ANYWHERE else to be so she couldn’t reach out to me. She was by the entrance to the record store, I was across the street. She looked right at me and made a bee line across traffic yelling, “Miss, Miss! Can I borrow your phone? Miss, Miss… please.”
And that was the moment: the moment I knew I had to be okay with having my phone or purse stolen. Because I knew I was supposed to help her. So I took a breath, stopped trying to avoid her and asked God to show me what to do as she approached.
She’d lost her phone, said her boyfriend would be so mad, would kill her for losing her phone again. Could she use my phone to make a call? I asked if there was someone I could call for her. So she gave me a number and I dialed, left a message, dialed again and someone answered. He said he’d meet her at the playground and hung up. She thanked me and quickly hurried away.
I crossed the street, went back into the record store, related the story, and told my companions that this is what I got for going outside.
I haven’t forgotten that moment. The panic I felt because I didn’t really want to help even though I knew as soon as her eyes met mine that I was supposed to do just that! I was scared, maybe for a good reason, maybe not. But today it reminded me of a teaching of Jesus:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
THE LEAST OF THESE
That moment outside the record store I was sure I had encountered one of the least of these.
Sometimes it is “easy” to identify “the least of these.” That doesn’t mean choosing to help them is easy.
I wonder how many times we can’t “see” what is right in front of us. How many times can we not “see” WHO is right in front of us? How many times do we choose to never go outside so we won’t be in a position to “have” to help?
That day I said, “This is what I get for going outside.”
It’s true. It is what I get. It is the chance we all get.
Where are the “least of these” in your life? Will you “go outside” and “get” to help?
“God, give us the courage to trust your leading, the strength to help those in need, the sensitivity not to walk away, and your eyes to see those in need all around us.”