A man, walking into a ladies gym, always raises a few eyebrows. He asked for the owner. I explained that she wouldn’t be in until Wednesday. He said, “I go to her church,” and I realized he meant the other owner. I told him she was in Europe.
His face crumpled and he began to cry.
That was yesterday afternoon. It was the day that the economy became very really, very poignant for me. As I ushered him out into the lobby, I listened to his story. It’s very similar to what one hears on the news these days. He was at the end of his rope and was finally willing to reach out to the last place he’d hoped to find help: his church.
We do not belong to the same religion. In fact, I’d say there’s more difference between us than similarities. But as I assured him, we are all in the same boat and if we can’t help each other out, than the world is a much darker place than I understood it to be. I asked if I could pray for him and with his agreement I asked the Lord to give him hope, for he surely had none.
My co-worker handed him $20 and gave him the phone numbers of places that could help with rental assistance. She told him what the law says about such matters and I drank it in. These were things I didn’t know. I’ve never been on the verge of being homeless – or hungry for that matter.
As he prepared to leave, with my promise that my Beloved and I would bring him food later that evening, I realized that he had eaten every morsel that I had given him: three curves bars, four bags of cheese rice crisps, and about two cups of raw almonds.
As I drove home I worried that I’d been played. Maybe he was a professional con man, one who preys on emotional, idiot girls, such as me. But I pushed those thoughts away. I don’t want to believe that this stranger would do this.
Beloved had lots of questions, ones I didn’t know the answer to. He agreed that we should take the man some food, after all, I’d given my word and if the man needed help, we should certainly help him. Beloved wanted to see the man for him self. He wanted some answers and he wanted to see if there was more we could do - if this guy was on the up and up.
The neighborhood where this man lives is a standard suburb, nothing fancy, but not a bad section of town. As we turned the corner we noted two police cars at the end of the street. I can’t help but admit that I was relieved to see them there. Beloved and I agreed that we would not go into the house, just in case.
We rang the bell. No answer.
Beloved knocked. Still no answer.
We looked at each other. “I suppose we could just leave the food here,” I said. Beloved agreed. “If it was a scam,” he said, we’re only out a few groceries.”
As we turned to go the door opened. I tall man, blond man stood in the doorway, annoyed. He was dressed in a mismatched tank top and shorts. He did not look pleased.
“Is the hungry man here?” I asked.
Silence. Beloved and I looked at each other. I looked at the angry man.
“Does he live here?” I questioned.
“Oh yeah, he lives here,” he replied, unsmiling. “Is this stuff for him?” he asked.
“Yes,” said my Beloved, measuring the man with his gaze.
We got into our car and drove away. Our conversation turned to theories about the angry man and the hungry man I had met earlier.
Perhaps he had been too embarrassed to come to the door. Maybe the angry man was his landlord who just wanted his money. It could have all been a ruse. Maybe the hungry man had borrowed money from the mob and was tied up in the living room desperately trying to make noise so we’d alert the police.
Maybe he was a spy
A drug dealer
Or, maybe he was a guy down on his luck.
Chances are we’ll never know, but God knows.
As we drove home, each lost in our own thoughts, I wondered if I’d been foolish. Then I recalled the conversation my co-worker and I had before I left the gym last night. She’d said I had a soft heart and smiled. I told her I was willing to help this man for two reasons.
First, as a Christian, we are supposed to. Christ laid down His very life for me. Taking a stranger a few steaks and some groceries is nothing compared to what’s been done for me.
And Second, I’d like to think that if I ever found myself hungry or in need, that maybe someone would help me out.
There are a lot of hurting people in the world and we are all so busy with our lives, but I wonder, I wonder what would happen if we remember to love our neighbors…as ourselves.