Flying past my destination deep in thought, I missed my exit. Driving on for another mile, I exited to return and there he was – a desperate man standing at the intersection with his sign for help. I tried not to make eye contact. I hoped the light would change before he came to my window. The man in front of me was looking straight ahead, but I could not ignore him. I looked at him. He lifted his eyes in hope. I took some bills out of my wallet and lowered the window. He moved to the car and I extended my hand. His face was downcast. He looked sad and humiliated, but quietly said, “Thank you so much” and moved away from the car.
It reminded me of entering Notre Dame several years ago. The poor woman was sitting at the door with outstretched hands. She caught my eye, but the line was pushing me forward. Once inside, everywhere I looked I saw her face, her hands reaching out to me for help. I was so convicted I worked my way back to the entrance, found her and offered her my coins. Her eyes spoke a million French words. I’m not fluent, but understood every one.
Why do these scenes make me so sad? Why do I often ignore the needy who stand on the corner? I much prefer to participate in a cleaned up service project where the needy are rounded up and brought to me and I can “minister” to them on my turf, leaving when I feel good enough about myself and my effort. The single soul demands more of us. We have to look them in the eye and say something to them. We have to face the harsh reality of poverty together.
The faces in the cold haunt me this Advent and I wonder if three dollars helps. Or if ten people give three dollars, maybe that buys food for a family – if there is one. I wonder where those faces sleep at night and if they stand and wait with outstretched hands and signs every day – desperate, trying to make it just one more day.
Jesus, the infant who comes this Advent, has some thoughts on this:
“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, 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.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” 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.” Matthew 25:35-40
This Advent, Jesus, help me see the faces through the eyes of your wondrous love. Amen