Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Least of These...

The weather is just too perfect, so the boy and I decide to take our subs to the restaurant's patio and enjoy the warm breeze. I'm basking in my child's sunny disposition this afternoon as much as I am loving the feeling of the sun's rays on my legs.

We've just begun to eat when a voice interrupts our conversation about the birthday sticker Drew got at school.

"Excuse me, ma'am..."

I turn around and my eyes lock with a young-ish man. His shirt is dirty and unbuttoned. His grin is toothless, and his red hair and beard are wiry and unkempt.

"I hate to disturb your meal, but I was just wondering if you had a quarter to spare."

He is keeping himself at a polite distance of about 15 feet, so as not to frighten us, I assume. I'm sort of grateful for that.

"Let me see... I'm just not sure." (And I'm not lying. Who knows on any given day whether my last quarter has been sacrificed to the gumball machine in order to keep a certain preschooler's whining to a minimum).

I open my wallet and find several bills and a few quarters. I reach for the quarters only. After all, it's what he's asked for. But I feel a nudge, so I obey by surrendering the small amount of cash to his hands.

He certainly needs it more than I do, and I want my son (who's watching the exchange intently) to witness his mommy being generous and unafraid of a person who looks a little different than we do.

"Here you go. God bless you today."

I turn back toward my sandwich, only to realize that the young man is lingering. He looks at my son and says, "You look just like your mommy!"

Drew smiles from ear to ear and laughs a belly laugh. "Thanks!" he responds.

The man continues to talk to my child, and now I'm a bit uncomfortable. He's telling Drew all about his niece. That she looks like a Gerber baby and that her name is Annabelle, though he doesn't understand why his sister would name her baby Annabelle.

Drew is captivated by this man's story, his smile extending from ear to ear. I, on the other hand, am squirming.

I want to be generous with my money, but not my time. I want to show my son that it's wrong to treat people differently based on the way they look, but I can't really see past the glaring differences at the moment. I want the exchange to be over so that I can get back to my hot lunch and my cold drink.

I don't want to think any more about how few hot meals he'll be able to secure with the $6.50 he's now clutching in his dirty hands. I don't want to think about where he'll sleep tonight. And I don't want to think about whether his sister worries over her brother's safety and wishes she could send him a card with an updated picture of baby Annabelle.

The man seems to pick up on my cues when I tell my son, "Say Goodbye to the nice man and tell him to have a good day!"

"Good-bye! Have a GREAT day! Hey - tomorrow's my birthday!!!"

"Wow - Happy Birthday. Have a great day yourself!!"

"O.K.!" Drew replies. "I'll see you next time!"

"See you around. Thanks again, ma'am. God bless."

He turns and walks down the sidewalk. He's almost out of sight when my son hollers as loudly as possible, "BBYYYYEEEE!!!"

And I shush him. With the sound of the shush still ringing in my ears, I'm disappointed in myself.

My son has befriended a young man today who apparently could use a nice conversation and much as the requested 25 cents. And they both seem uplifted by the exchange. What's my problem?!

Drew returns to his grilled cheese without a second thought. I wish my own mind was as settled.

I'm trying to recall where the Bible might back me up on my behavior. And this is the passage I am remembering:

Matthew 25: 37-40

"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, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Today, I gave my King a few dollars, then silently wished that He would ask no more.

Today, my child talked with the King, laughed with Him, and expressed his desire to "See [Him] again soon!"

It leaves me wondering: Who's teaching who these days?


becky @ misspriss said...

Oh, how I have been guilty of the squirming and wanting them to leave. My husband is much more conversant and, dare I say, kinder.

Shanni ♥ said...

Wow, so I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but this post really touched my heart. Growing up in a busy city I was quickly taught not to give money to "beggers" (when I was 7 years old I gave a few dollars to a "homeless" person for "bus fare". My mom drove around the block, just to test his story, and we watched him walk out of the liquor store brown bag in hand. Since that day I have not given more than $5 dollars to those in need in the 14 years since.) I'm glad to say that this post has softened my heart, and touched me deeply. Thank you so much for the post!

..Maybe next time I see someone with a sign saying "Hungry" I'll stop and get them a big mac with the works!