While I was out shopping today, I wound up in line behind an older (but not elderly) couple. There were two or three people in line ahead of us, and during the wait I couldn't help but overhear part of their conversation. Now, while I don't consider myself an eavesdropper, my ears did perk up when I heard bits of what they were saying. After a couple of minutes it became clear to me that they were debating whether or not they had enough money for supper and the gas to get them back home. They wound up deciding they could only afford the gas back home, and even at that, they might not have enough money to fill the car up enough to get the entire way back. They both were wearing well-worn clothes and the man looked as if he had suffered a stroke at some point in time. After reaching their decision, he stayed in line with the few necessities they could afford, and she went off to gather her young grandson and his very pregnant mother. As I left, they were all sitting in a very small car that looked as if it might not even make it out of the parking lot. Our time in North Carolina taught me that unless people are out asking for money or food, they may not want you to give them any, so I offered up a quick prayer and went on my way instead.
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came to me...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me [Christ]." Matthew 25:35-36, 40 KJV
Do I believe in the power of prayer? Absolutely. Do I doubt my decision to not try to do more to help this family? Do I wish I could go back and and make a different choice? Yes. And yet, despite my guilt (and if we're really going to be honest here, that's what it is) that opportunity has passed me by. Does that mean I can't do something now for someone else? Nope. As we head into this year's Christmas season, I implore you to consider it's origins. As beautiful and enchanting as the lights and tinsel and brightly wrapped gifts are, Christ entered this world meekly in order to teach us how to live, how to love, and ultimately, to die for our sins. He lived and loved with a servant heart, and so should we. As you sit in your snug homes contemplating what gifts to give this year, I would ask that you take into consideration those who do not have the means to provide the comfort you and I enjoy. Does your child need all three of those new, expensive toys that they will only play with for a few weeks, or could you get them just one, and in doing so, teach them the valuable lesson of loving others by donating the rest of the money you would have spent? There are many charities and organizations this time of year asking for your money and compassion. You don't have to donate to all of them, but please do find one or two you could support. I know what it's like to have things be a little tight towards the end of the month, and if you're like my family, you do, too. And yet, the cupboards at my house always have plenty of food, my closet is well-stocked with nice clothes that don't need mending, and my thermostat set at a pleasant temperature. There are many adults and children alike who cannot say the same. The face of poverty in this country is changing, and your friends and neighbors may not be as well-off as you think. So, please, take time to think about the down-trodden, the hungry, the cold, the elderly, the sick, and the unemployed this year. And during that pause, consider your blessings and how you can use them to bless others this CHRISTmas season. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at the surplus you find to share with others and the joy you receive from doing so.