It was a warm Saturday in May. The sticky kind, diligently grasping for water from every source be it man, beast or, vegetation in a relentless effort to receive it from the heavens, the source of its truest satisfaction.
Although the weather was in no way unique to these parts, the visitor we received certainly was. In our close-knit neighborhood, we recognize each other as much by vehicle as by face. On this particular day, a strange, silver truck bumbled along down our street, slowing to a gentle stop right there in front of our house.
The figure of a grimy man, unshaven, with brown greasy hair slicked back beneath an old, tattered ball cap, slid off the driver’s seat and nervously approached the man of the house as the children stood by.
From my place just inside the front door, my first instinct was to quick gather all the kids inside, slam the door, and close the blinds. The prime recourse fear brings–hide and isolate.
As the minutes dragged on, the man of the house engaged joyfully with this fellow, purchasing from his wares, four handmade walking sticks.
I disappeared behind the door and busied myself with lunch preparations. As I began, I heard the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit inviting me to make a lunch for our visitor.
I quickly went to work packing a meager lunch of a couple of ham and turkey sandwiches with cheese and lemonade. It was’nt much. I felt truly embarrassed to offer but I gave what I had.
When Gerry realized the food was for him, he beamed with gratitude.
In exchange for lunch, Gerry treated us to a show of card tricks rivaling those of famous illusionists. Soon, he was surrounded by a gawking crowd of children who couldn’t get enough.
In those moments, I realized who was really rich and it wasn’t me. I looked from the distance between my doorstep and my curb and cast judgement.
I looked at someone who was dirty on the outside and assumed he was even dirtier on the inside. When the truth was, he had something rich. He had a beautiful, generous heart.
The man of the house asked our family to encircle Gerry and offer up prayer. My man has a peculiar ability to see past a person’s outer appearance, right down into the heart. He began his prayer by thanking the Lord for “this good man”.
In the midst of all who had gathered, our kind traveler was esteemed as good and noble. Gerry was choking back tears when the final Amen was said. He thanked us repeatedly. He said when he pulled down the street, he knew he was supposed to stop in front of our house. Indeed he was.
To the casual observer it would appear that he was the one in need of the blessing. However, the opposite was true.
Gerry taught me a lesson so very needed in this day of rendering judgement from our doorsteps.
We attempt to assess the hearts of others from such enormous distances such as the span between the right and the left of political lines or the one between wealth and poverty.
We create an atrocious spread between such silly things as public or private education vs. home education or vaccinated vs. non vaccinated or even more ridiculous, from the place of skin color, black vs. white. The judgments we render against people are anything but just.
How can we possibly know the heart of another without pulling in close? Why is it, if someone happens to be on the other side, we instantly cast them as evil at worst and bad at best? What have we come to?
We are fearful graspers. We diligently grasp for all that is right and whole. We seek it from being on the correct side rather than from the heavens where the rightness and the wholeness truly brings what satisfies.
Distance is easy just like fear. Certainly not the kind of living Jesus intended. He called us to follow His example–the narrow way, the difficult way, the intimate way.
When He was found with folks, He was with those who looked nothing like the status quo. He was found with minorities (Samaritans, women, and the diseased). He was found with simple children. He mixed and mingled with those of poor character without compromising His own.
2,000 years later, I’m running for my closed doors at the mere sight of someone who appears like one such as these.
The difference between His response and mine boils down to love.
Love overrides the voice of fear. Love doesn’t just see. Love seeks to know. Love looks for the obvious need and meets it. Love looks deep, calling out the best of the human heart without compromising truth in the process.
It’s the dynamic which turned a Jewish world upside down. Each one of us have been commissioned to replicate it.
The obvious question is how? While there is no cookie cutter answer, the answer is fairly simple.
Start with what you have right where you are.
If you are willing to simply speak up, God will give you an opportunity to speak for Him. Our world is in desperate need of hope. It is the the heart of God to use your voice to break through another’s reality and offer what only He can give.
He most likely won’t start by giving any of us a microphone to shout from. He will ask us to step close enough to whisper into an ear.
The human heart yearns for a quiet whisper in the midst of the noise. Determine to be a generous whisperer of hope in this generation and watch as those whispers ring out of lives for years to come.