25 February 2014

Entertaining Angels

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:1-2

This made me think of times when looking into the eyes of a panhandler struck my soul deeply. The first time was back when I was still judging the beggar.

I pulled up to the stop at the exit of the Walmart parking lot in my little town, and even though I hadn't planned on looking, I glanced over at the tall, dingy figure standing on the grassy corner. I think he held a sign asking for help. He was faded, weathered, his tan seeming to reach more than skin deep from his dark blonde head to his boots. He wore nondescript clothing: jeans, work boots, and some kind of canvas jacket that looked warm enough for the fall nights. He looked to be late thirties; not young, but not yet aging, if you know what I mean.

He had a backpack with a bedroll, and I remember thinking he looked tough . .  . undefeatable in an old west cowboy way. Someone who had walked many, many miles, who slept on the ground as easily as a bed, who needed very little in the world, and didn't miss the rest. I had planned to drive right past him (judging the beggar; ugh), but when I glanced at him, he was looking right at me. Our eyes met, and I was profoundly struck. All of my description came in one very complete impression when I met those incredibly clear blue eyes. Eyes that looked like they could see for a hundred miles, and into the very center of every soul he saw. (I know that sounds a bit melodramatic. But it's accurate, nonetheless. It took a little melodrama to get through to me back then.) Maybe that's why he seemed faded to me; his eyes pierced the air, so clear, so bright.

All I can say is I trusted him, and wanted to help him, (more than my prejudice would usually have allowed). There was so much character and strength in his gaze. I drove around the corner, back into the lot, and pulled up in front of where he stood. Rolling down the window, I told him I was going to get my son something to eat, and would he like some lunch? "Sure," he answered, clearly glad for the offer. When I asked him what he'd like, he said in that way people do who are happy, yet see something as slightly ridiculous, with a little laugh under his voice: "Anything."

I went to McD's, (another failing I have since abandoned ;o), got my toddler son some fries, and a meal and some $5 certificates for the man. I was back in about 15 minutes, and he was so grateful for the warm white paper bag. I may have shaken his hand, and I know I offered the most sincere God Bless You I'd ever uttered up to that point in my life.

I don't really have words to accurately describe the way I felt when I looked into his eyes--he was incredibly strong-hearted, like I would imagine an actual-real-live superhero would be. No weakness, yet gentle. No dissipation or vice. Long experience and empathy. And there was such a connection, such a chord struck in my soul.

I knew that day I had done something good . . . and it wasn't until I came across something in my reading today that it occurred to me it may have been more significant than I realized.

Father in Heaven, I treasure the times I have been able to bless the life of someone else, in whatever way You have offered me the chance. I just pray that You will continue to allow me opportunities to do so. Show me whom you would have me help; show me whom you would have me serve, bless, pray for. Bless the weary, defend the weak, and comfort those who mourn I pray, in Jesus' holy name, amen.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!