Boy did I screw up. I had a miserable drive home tonight. My stomach churned and rumbled as I replayed the previous 30 minutes of my life at Walmart over and over again.
Andrea and I had been studying at a cozy coffee shop, comfortably watching the rain fall and basking in the autumn atmosphere. After a couple productive hours of studying, we made a trip to the great all-American, er all-foreign, supermarket. We needed a few things before we went home. Important things like, snacks for lunch, a 15 dollar bag of coffee, a turkey baster for my marine aquarium and some triple A batteries for my air conditioner’s display unit. We were in a hurry too, because … well I am not sure why, but we were going home and we couldn’t get there fast enough.
We pull up to the Walmart parking lot. Through the rain I see a child about to dart across my path without looking.
“Wow, kiddo.” I said as I slowed down.
He never got within 10 feet of my car, so I paid it little attention. I drop off Andrea at the door (I am such a gentleman) and find a parking spot. So we are zipping through the aisles, trying to find the items we decided we couldn’t live without for the night, when all of a sudden Andrea and I hear the cry of a young boy. He looked to be about 10 or 11. He had found a worker and was trying to explain through his sobs and tears about how his foster parent had just abused him.
Guess how I handled this situation.
“Hey baby, let’s just go to the groceries now and worry about the batteries later. They will be at the checkout aisle.”
“Was that the child you commented on earlier?” My concerned wife asked.
“The one you saw in the parking lot?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Should we?” Andrea stopped, her silence prodded me to go see what was wrong. Which was good thinking on her part. She knows I deal with kids like these all of the time. I work with state custody children everyday. Many of them are abused by their foster parents. There was a good chance I could have helped calm the kid down and given the Walmart electronics employee a hand. Together I am sure we could have given the child the help he needed.
“Ugh, you never know with those kids. Sure his foster parent may have abused him, but then again, the kid could have fabricated the whole thing.”
Ya, that was my stellar reply.
Now in my defense, these kids really do make up these type of stories all of the time for attention. BUT THAT IS TOTALLY BESIDE THE POINT!
“Oh, ok.” Andrea said.
We kept moving. Andrea didn’t question or push the issue. She submitted to my lead because in her mind I am the authority on that sort of thing. I know how to work with these kids. In her mind I know their tricks, their needs, wants, problems and fears. I can sniff out their intentions like a blood hound.
She was concerned, I was apathetic. I was more concerned about getting my 15 dollar bag of coffee. (Hey it’s bulk, so it’s ok, right?)
Well we get our stuff. We check out. We suit up for the rain.
It is barely drizzling outside and we start pushing our cart of invaluable goods across the parking lot when we are stopped by a homeless gentlemen.
“Hey, I hate to bother you two, but my wife and I are soaked from the rain. Our tents are wet and we don’t have a place to get dry for the night.” He holds out his hand that is partially filled with a few dimes and quarters. “If you have any spare change, that could really help us out.”
Not to throw her under the bus, but I could feel Andrea’s anxiety. She gets nervous around strangers, especially ones who ask for money. I knew she was uncomfortable so I had to act.
Change huh? I think to myself, sensing a clever way out of the inconvenience. “Sorry, I don’t carry any change.”
Grant it, that is true. I don’t carry any change. BUT THAT IS TOTALLY BESIDE THE POINT!
Matthew 25:31-45 New International Version (NIV)
The Sheep and the Goats
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, 43 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.’
44 “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?’
45 “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.’
Christ never tells us to look for excuses, to see how needy the individuals are first, or find out if their claims are honest or not. He says ‘the least of these.’ The least deserving. That includes all of us. Even the drug users I have in the past refused to give money to, because in my finite wisdom I just knew he was going to buy more drugs.
The problem was that I didn’t think. I never ran it by God. I was already out of the state of mind that was God focused, because I was too concerned about coffee and a turkey baster. Since it was already all about me my default response to those in need was preset against them.
Andrea pointed out to me as we were pulling up to our home that between the two of us we each had a burden for one of the needs presented to us. She felt empathetic towards the little boy, and I immediately regretted turning the homeless man down once I said I had no change. I pulled her away from the boy and she indirectly put pressure on me to leave the homeless man without aide. I am not blaming her for my selfishness, but it is interesting how our weaknesses snuffed out the other’s convictions.
The least of these…
Now I am home, dry but still comfortable. Unsurprisingly, I am not craving my late night coffee like I usually do, even if it is the delicious gourmet whole beans that come in large, 15 dollar bags.
Father forgive my egocentric self. Thank you for convicting me of my selfishness. I pray that the needs of those people were met tonight and that I will act on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.