Friday, First Week of Advent
December 7, 2007
"Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' " -- Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
For the Love of God
My grandparents lived in a modest home in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a block that was surrounded by businesses and stores. Behind their house, across the street, was a park, where many homeless and street people spent their days and nights. My grandfather would go to that park for a daily walk and, occasionally, someone would ask for spare change for food. Much to their surprise, my grandfather would say "no" to their request for change, but invite them to the house for lunch or dinner (sometimes to my grandmother's surprise, too). My grandfather would walk in the house with a new guest, announcing that he (it was always a man) was having a meal with us. My grandmother would instruct our guest to "go wash up" and then go about setting out plates of food and filling glasses with ice tea.
Once we all sat down, my grandfather would ask our new visitor about his life and then listen intently about the circumstances that led the visitor to live on the street. Some of our guests just had a run of bad luck, some chose to stay on the street because they wanted to and some had mental illness or substance abuse problems. Whatever the reason, my grandfather would listen quietly and respectfully. After our meal together, my grandparents would give the person the address of their nearby church, in case our guest needed more meals, clothing, counseling or shelter. Then my grandfather would walk our guest back to the park and wish him well.
It didn't occur to me that most folks didn't take homeless and street people into their homes for meals, but that's how my grandparents operated. They helped wherever they could. They went to church on Thursdays to help in the kitchen that fed hundreds of people daily. They drove people that didn't have a car to doctor's appointments or the grocery store. One time during the summer, they made up a bedroom on their screened-in back porch so a homeless man could stay for a few days and get some medical attention and a break from street life. They took seriously Jesus' command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Their daily life was a constant display of the command to love: from their nightly Bible study to helping anyone in their neighborhood in need.
I hope during this Christmas Season you are able to feel the real presence and love of God, and I hope that you are able to give and share that love with those around you.
Former Coordinator of Associated Colleges in China Program at Hamilton College
Currently working at the Refugee Center in Utica